The National Farmers Union (NFU) reports that an announcement on the final new Seasonal Worker Pilot operator for 2021 ‘is expected imminently’ after AG Recruitment was confirmed as an additional scheme operator last week.
The NFU commented, ‘Horticulture growers will be relieved to hear that the list of Seasonal Pilot Operators now includes AG Recruitment. The announcement on the fourth and final operator is expected imminently. We will update these pages as soon as we get news.’
AG Recruitment’s appointment follows a government ‘procurement’ process that began, at the end of December 2020, with a Request For Information from interested labour providers. Defra and the Home Office reviewed the applicants this spring. The company joins existing scheme operators Pro-Force Ltd and Concordia Ltd.
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. NFU Chief Horticulture and Potatoes Adviser, Lee Abbey, said that the appointment of the additional two operators is just the start, and there was still a significant challenge 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.”