To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for what reason his Department has limited the number of labour providers who can participate in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme to four.
The Seasonal Workers visa route is currently managed by four private sector operators. Two of the current Seasonal Worker visa route operators (Concordia and Pro-force) were originally selected through fair and open competition to manage the 2019 Seasonal Workers Pilot. On 22 December 2020, the Government extended the Seasonal Workers Pilot for one year and expanded the number of visas from 10,000 to 30,000 for 2021. The Home Office concluded that the appropriate total number of operators for the extended Pilot was four, and two further operators (AG Recruitment and Management Ltd and Fruitful Jobs) were selected by fair and open competition in 2021. Any labour provider that was able to meet the minimum standards could have applied, including small and medium-sized enterprises.
On 24 December 2021, the Government announced that the Seasonal Worker visa route would be extended through to 2024. As with the Pilot, it allows 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 in 2022, and this was being kept under review with the potential to increase by up to 10,000 visas if there was evidence of need. This has now been realised and to support the sector, the Government will release 10,000 visas for the seasonal worker visa route, with 2,000 of these going to the poultry sector.
Two existing operator licenses are due for renewal before 2023, with a Request for Information to be run this summer and a decision on the appropriate number of operators for years 2023 and 2024 to be finalised this year.