Government ups numbers of non-EU workers seasonal workers on farms to 10,000

The government is to quadruple the number of seasonal workers farmers can recruit across the UK as a whole on a temporary basis from outside the EU this year.

In a statement released this morning by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, environment secretary George Eustice confirms the expansion of the Seasonal Workers Pilot to allow farmers to hire up to 10,000 workers (in total) in 2020 – up from the previous 2,500 workers.

The workers will support the UK’s horticulture sector in a bid to give fruit and vegetable growers access to a much bigger pool of workers this year to help pick and gather even more produce, according to the statement.

With soft fruit production in the UK continuing to skyrocket – growing by 185% between 1998 and 2018 – the government says the expansion will support these farmers over this year’s busy summer harvest, while allowing the government to test its pilot further.

The pilot, which began last year, is designed to test the effectiveness of the country’s immigration system at supporting UK growers during peak production periods, while maintaining robust immigration control. It will allow farms to hire workers for a period of up to six months and will continue to run until the end of 2020.

The expansion will allow the government to keep testing how this pilot operates further, while helping to ease some of the pressure felt on farms when they are at their busiest.

The government says that although the numbers are increasing based on the success of the pilot so far, it is not designed to meet the full labour needs of the horticultural sector. The recruitment drive will complement the EU workers already travelling to the UK this year to provide seasonal labour on farms during the busy harvest months.

The government adds the pilot will be evaluated ahead of any decisions being taken on how future needs of the sector will be addressed.

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