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Agriculture: Vacancies

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL641, tabled on 26 May 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the UK–EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement on labour shortages in the agricultural and food processing sectors; and what steps they are taking to reduce any such shortages.

Answered on

10 June 2021

Defra is working closely with industry to help our world-leading farmers and food businesses access the labour they need, and to ensure that our sectors are appropriately supported both this year and in the future.

On 22 December 2020, the government extended the Seasonal Workers Pilot into 2021, with up to 30,000 visas available, granted for workers to come to the UK, from EU or non-EU countries, for a period of up to 6 months to pick and package fruit and vegetables on our farms.

Defra is leading on a review of automation in horticulture, which will cover both the edible and ornamental sectors in England. The review will work alongside the newly extended and expanded Seasonal Workers Pilot - and Defra’s efforts to attract more UK residents into agricultural work – to support the overall aim of reducing the sector’s dependency on seasonal migrant labour.

On 1 January 2021 free movement ended and was replaced with the UK's points- based immigration system. Alongside this, agri-food businesses will also be able to recruit those who come to the UK through our youth mobility schemes, dependents of skilled workers, plus those who arrive through other routes, such as our humanitarian protection ones, who have free access to the UK labour market.

Some of the measures in our new points-based immigration system represent a significant change for some businesses.

Defra is working with industry and the Department for Work and Pensions to raise awareness of career opportunities within the food and farming sectors among UK workers. We will also explore the potential for automation to meet future labour demands of the sector.

In 2021 and beyond, agricultural and food businesses will continue to be able to rely on EU nationals living in the UK with settled or pre-settled status. Over 4.9 million EU citizens and their families have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and the application deadline is 30 June 2021.

For the longer term, the Government is encouraging all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through offering training, careers options, wage increases and to invest in increased automation technology.