The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Home Secretary announced a new temporary work visa that will allow farmers to employ migrant workers for up to six months.
The two-year pilot scheme, which starts in Spring next year, will permit 2,500 workers from outside the EU.
It is estimated that 60,000 people, mostly from eastern Europe, come to this country every year, to do this type of seasonal work. Launching a trial run for 2,500 is the first step for DEFRA in formulating what will be required once freedom of movement ends.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove, said:“We have listened to the powerful arguments from farmers about the need for seasonal labour to keep the horticulture industry productive and profitable.From lettuce in East Anglia to strawberries in Scotland, we want to make sure that farmers can continue to grow, sell and export more great British food.
“This two year pilot will ease the workforce pressures faced by farmers during busy times of the year. We will review the pilot’s results as we look at how best to support the longer-term needs of industry outside the EU,” he said.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am committed to having an immigration system that reduces migration to sustainable levels, supports all industry and ensures we welcome those who benefit Britain.’
The Seasonal Workers pilot will be run by two operators, who will oversee the placement of the workers. Only those over 18 and from outside of the EU will be eligible and it is expected that the majority will come during the peak periods of summer and early autumn.
This scheme will be welcomed in Scotland, where fruit and vegetables have an output value of £265.9m. Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “Many of Scotland’s farms, in particular our soft fruit growers, rely on seasonal workers. This pilot is a welcome first step in ensuring that Scottish farmers can continue to access the workers they need to grow and harvest their produce.’