The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is calling for a new UK visa trial scheme to ensure the agricultural industry has the overseas seasonal workers it needs post-Brexit.
It’s calling on the Home Office to introduce a ‘substantial trial’ of a Seasonal Agricultural Permit Scheme for non-EU workers to cover the 2017 season. EU workers coming to the UK for seasonal farm labour makes up a huge part of the workforce but there are concerns how this will be replaced once the UK leaves the EU and freedom of movement is curtailed.
NFU horticulture board chairman Ali Capper met with Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill to discuss introducing the trial visa.
She said: “Horticulture alone needs around 80,000 seasonal workers to pick and pack fruit, vegetable and plant crops across the country. This is expected to rise to 95,000 by 2021 based on today’s growth projections.
“Our message to the Home Office was simple: without workers to produce iconic British crops the industry will contract and imports will increase. This goes against everything public tell us about wanting to support British farmers and wanting to see more British food on supermarket shelves.”
The numbers of EU migrant workers coming to Britain to work on farms is already in decline and Mrs Capper said the Brexit vote is likely to put off more people from coming to the UK next year.
She added: “Without basic assurances from Government that this labour will be accessible in future, grower businesses face huge uncertainty and are delaying investment in British production.”
In addition to workers to harvest fruit and vegetables, the agricultural sector also needs skilled staff to work on livestock and dairy farms and in food production. The industry is worth £108 billion to the UK economy annually.