Immigration minister Robert Goodwill has indicated that a seasonal agricultural workers scheme could be introduced after Brexit.
He told peers during a House of Lords sub-committee that the NFU has been pressing for such a scheme. You can watch Mr Goodwill’s evidence here.
NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair Ali Capper said: “Access to a competent and reliable workforce is essential to alleviate significant pressures on farming businesses especially with the 2017 season fast approaching. To hear the comments from immigration minister Robert Goodwill MP on the NFU’s calls for a seasonal agricultural permit scheme is extremely encouraging - but action needs to be taken now as the situation is pressing for many farming businesses.
“The NFU will continue to press for a trial of a seasonal agricultural permit scheme to be launched now. If we leave the introduction of this scheme until after Brexit the damage will have already been done and crops will be left to rot in the fields. The effects would be felt right through the food supply chain ending with the public – the people eating the food we produce. The importance of a strong, domestic food supply cannot be understated.
“Horticulture alone needs over 80,000 workers to plant, pick and pack fruit and veg. That number will rise to 95,000 in the next four years. Shortages aren’t just limited to fruit and vegetable growers - workers from across the skill spectrum are needed for an industry that is worth £108 billion to the nation’s economy. People are needed to process and pack meat in the livestock and poultry businesses and to drive complex machinery on cereals farms.”