07 May 2021
Seasonal worker pilots: 'Challenge is still there'
NFU Chief Horticulture and Potatoes Adviser, Lee Abbey, has said the appointment of two new Seasonal Worker Pilot operators in the UK is a positive step but there are still challenges ahead.
“The lateness of a decision by the government in 2020 on the expansion of the scheme for this season meant the sector would always be playing catch up,” he said. “The peak horticulture season is upon us, but the new operators are only now able to issue visas and, typically, it can take up to six weeks for the first people to arrive. This puts enormous pressure on the sector where labour is increasingly hard to find.”
The NFU recently announced the appointment of AG Recruitment as the third operator, joining existing providers Pro-Force Ltd and Concordia Ltd, and said it was hoped a fourth would shortly be announced.
A government ‘procurement’ process had began at the end of December 2020, with a Request For Information from interested labour providers, after which Defra and the Home Office reviewed the applicants.
The NFU had been pushing for an urgent announcement to enable growers to contact the new providers and for those providers to start issuing visas.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said in a recent statement: "We will always back our farmers and growers, who work hard all year round to provide us with a secure supply of fruit and vegetables. The measures will provide vital labour, both domestic and from abroad, to our farmers and growers to help gather the 2021 harvest to feed the nation."