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The seasonal workers pilot, which was announced by the Home Secretary and Environment Secretary back in September 2018, has now opened. Through the scheme fruit and vegetable farmers are able to employ up to 2,500 migrant workers from outside of the EU for seasonal work for up to six months. Concordia and Pro-Force, the two scheme operators, have been licenced to manage the pilot and will be responsible for identifying suitable workers and matching them to UK farmers, as well as ensuring their welfare. It’s been said that the first workers could start to arrive on UK farms this spring.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes has commented on the scheme, saying: “Visiting a fruit farm last year, I saw first-hand how vital British produce is for our economy and listened carefully to the powerful arguments from farmers about the support they need. The seasonal worker pilot shows this government not only listens, but is willing to take the necessary action to make sure our farms can continue to grow, sell and export more great British food.”
The Home Office and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Food Minister David Rutley, says: “Our farmers and growers have been absolutely clear about the need for additional sources of labour to work on farms during the busy harvest months. We have heard these concerns, which is why today we are opening this pilot to boost the workforce on farms this spring and summer and help farmers with their harvests. This pilot, which will be closely monitored and reviewed, will help inform future policy as we look at how best to support the longer-term needs of the industry outside the EU.”
The pilot will run until the end of December 2020 and will be reviewed before any decisions are taken on running a future scheme.