NFU secures win for Seasonal Workers Scheme

09 May 2024

Strawberries growing on a stand

Following several years of campaigning by the NFU, the Government has announced a five-year extension to the Seasonal Workers Scheme which will help give many farming and growing businesses the vital certainty needed to boost our national food security. 

The announcement was made as part of a package of measures in response to the Shropshire Independent Review into Labour Shortages1. It provides much needed confidence for businesses and applicants, while also addressing concerns about the recruitment and upskilling of domestic staff.

NFU President Tom Bradshaw said: “This will be a huge relief for the horticulture and poultry sectors that rely on seasonal workers and is a brilliant win for the NFU, which has been campaigning for a long-term plan for seasonal workers for some time.

“We have seen in the past how damaging shortages of workers has been, with approximately £60 million worth of crops lost in 2022 due to a shortfall of workers. We know that with the correct trading conditions there are significant opportunities for growth and the commitment to a five-year scheme is very positive. Moving forward, it is vital to have assurance that the number of visas and the costs associated2 with accessing them will continue to meet the needs of our food producers.

“Funding announced for further automation of packhouses is also welcome, along with the commitment to accelerate the development of robotic crop harvesters. It is important that these positive announcements are reinforced by the Government at its forthcoming Farm to Fork Summit, and that the industry and government can work together to drive growth for UK food and farming.”

More information

  1. The Shropshire Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain was published by John Shropshire, chair of the review, in June 2023.
  2. The cost and additional requirements needed for workers to have Seasonal Worker Scheme visas make it an unaffordable option for some poultry producers, particularly small to medium sized seasonal businesses.
  • The Government has announced that in 2025 there will be 45,000 visas available under the Seasonal Workers Scheme. Between 2026-2029 the numbers of visas available are subject to review.