Government unveils pilot for migrant worker scheme

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

The Government is to introduce a pilot scheme for non-EU migrant workers
The Government is to introduce a pilot scheme for non-EU migrant workers
The Government has revealed plans for a nationwide pilot to bring migrant workers to UK farms.

Home secretary Sajid Javid and environment secretary Michael Gove launched the two-year pilot scheme on Thursday 6 September.

It will mean that fruit and vegetable farmers will be able to employ migrant workers for seasonal work for up to six months.

The scheme will allow 2,500 workers from outside the EU to come to the UK each year, alleviating labour shortages during peak production periods.

The Government said it would review the pilot’s results in order to look at how best to support the longer-term needs of industry outside the EU.

It added that soft fruit production in the UK has grown dramatically, by 130% in the last 20 years and said that, while this growth continues, farmers must also look at ways in which technology can reduce demands for labour.

However, it admitted that automated harvesting solutions were not universally available and so, in the short term, this pilot would support farmers during peak production periods.

The pilot would also explore how to keep British horticulture competitive, as almost all other OECD countries source seasonal workers to pick fruit and vegetables.

Javid said he was committed to having an immigration system that reduced migration to sustainable levels.

“British farmers are vital to the UK’s economy – and the Government will look to support them in any way we can,”​ he said“This pilot will ensure farmers have access to the seasonal labour they need to remain productive and profitable during busy times of the year.”

Gove said: “We have listened to the powerful arguments from farmers about the need for seasonal labour to keep the horticulture industry productive and profitable.

“From lettuce in East Anglia to strawberries in Scotland, we want to make sure that farmers can continue to grow, sell and export more great British food.”

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