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Agriculture: Seasonal Workers

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL2019, tabled on 14 July 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to reports of vegetables rotting in fields throughout the UK due to a shortage of agricultural workers.

Answered on

28 July 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.

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 5.1 million EU citizens and their families have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The application deadline was 30 June 2021 and where a person eligible under the EU Settlement Scheme has reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply.

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.

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.