Defra continues to work closely with industry and other Government departments to understand labour supply and demand, including both permanent and seasonal workforce requirements, and to ensure there is a long-term strategy for the food and farming workforce.
The Government has announced that the seasonal worker visa route will be extended to 2024 to allow overseas workers to come to the UK for up to six months to harvest both edible and ornamental crops. 30,000 visas will be available. This will be kept under review with the potential to increase by 10,000 if necessary.
While acknowledging the sector’s reliance on foreign workers, the UK is committed to becoming a high-skilled, high-wage economy and the Government has been clear that more must be done to attract UK workers through offering training, career options, wage increases and to invest in increased automation technology.
Defra’s Review of Automation in Horticulture will be published shortly and will inform a range of policy decisions regarding automation and seasonal labour from 2022 onwards.
In addition, food and farming businesses can continue to rely on EU nationals living in the UK with settled or pre-settled status. Over 5.5 million EU citizens and their families have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Defra is also working with industry and the Department for Work and Pensions to raise awareness of career opportunities within the food and farming sectors among UK workers.