Agriculture: Seasonal Workers

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the amount of unpicked fruit on UK farms due to a lack of labour; and what plans they have to ensure that there is enough labour to pick winter vegetables on UK farms.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We know that the horticulture sector requires a high proportion of seasonal workers. The Government introduced a new pilot for 2019 and 2020 enabling up to 2,500 non-European Economic Area migrant workers to come to the UK to undertake seasonal employment in the edible horticultural sector. As of June 2019, pilot operators had recruited all 2,500 workers who continued to arrive in the following months for the harvesting of winter vegetables. This pilot is not designed to meet the full labour needs of the horticultural sector. Rather we are seeking to evaluate the immigration pilot’s ability to assist in alleviating labour shortages during peak production periods.

Defra and the Home Office continue to monitor the impact of the seasonal workers pilot and the workforce pressures faced by farmers as we look at how best to support the longer-term needs of industry outside the EU.

EU citizens can continue to come to the UK for work in 2019 and 2020 regardless of whether the UK reaches a deal with the EU. This includes for seasonal work on farms. EU citizens arriving after we leave the EU, in a no deal scenario, will need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain, granting a further 36 months in the UK if they want to stay after 31 December 2020, which is the deadline for applying to the scheme.

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