To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the quantity of (1) brassicas, (2) salad foodstuffs, (3) fruit, and (4) vegetables, that remain unpicked due to a shortage of workers; and what impact they expect this to have on (a) food prices, and (b) the Consumer Price Index.
The Government recognises the importance of a reliable source of labour for crop picking and packing, and that it is a key part of bringing in the harvest for the horticultural sector. Defra is working closely with industry and other Government departments to understand labour supply and demand, and to help our world-leading growers access the labour they need to ensure our crops are picked and not wasted.
On 22 December 2020, the Government extended the Seasonal Workers Pilot into 2021, with up to 30,000 visas available, granted for workers to come to the UK, from EU or non-EU countries, for a period of up to 6 months to pick and package fruit and vegetables on our farms.
In 2021 and beyond, agricultural and food businesses continue to be able to rely on EU nationals living in the UK with settled or pre-settled status. Over 5.3 million EU citizens and their families have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme and EU nationals who have settled status can continue to travel to the UK to do seasonal work in the horticulture sector in 2021.
Defra is working with industry and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to raise awareness of career opportunities within the food and farming sectors among UK workers. All horticultural and agricultural businesses are encouraged to advertise roles through DWP’s Find A Job website, where they can upload and manage their vacancies. The DWP does not charge for this service and it is available across the United Kingdom.
Defra is leading on a review of automation in horticulture, which will cover both the edible and ornamental sectors in England. The review will work alongside the extended and expanded Seasonal Workers Pilot - and Defra’s efforts to attract more UK residents into agricultural work – to support the overall aim of reducing the sector’s dependency on seasonal migrant labour.
Defra monitors both wholesale fruit and vegetable prices, and food prices on a weekly basis using the Office for National Statistics’ experimental food price indices, as well as on a monthly and annual basis using Consumer Price Index (including Housing Costs). Consumer food prices depend on a range of factors including agri-food import prices, domestic agricultural prices, domestic labour and manufacturing costs, and Sterling exchange rates. Changes in food prices are dependent on changes in any of these factors.