Seasonal Agricultural Worker Scheme – extra visas a step forward

16 December 2022

An image of an overseas workes during daffodil harvest

As the government confirms that 45,000 visas will be made available for horticultural businesses next year, NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw warns of the importance of timely decision making to enable growth in the sector. 

Defra has confirmed that 45,000 visas for seasonal workers will be available for horticultural businesses in 2023, as part of SAWS (Seasonal Agricultural Worker Scheme).  

The announcement also includes the potential to increase this figure by a further 10,000 if necessary.

Responding to Defra’s announcement, NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said:

“This increase in visas is a positive step forward and will be a relief for many growers who are currently struggling to find the skilled workforce needed to continue producing the nation’s fruit, vegetables and ornamentals.

“For some growers, this announcement will have come too late with some already having made the difficult decision to reduce production in the coming season.

Decisions must be timely

“Growers have faced a really tough year with soaring energy and fertiliser costs only adding to the pressure caused by significant workforce shortages, which resulted in £60 million of fruit and vegetables being wasted in the first half of 2022 alone. And we expect the coming 2023 season to be equally challenging.

“We’ll be closely monitoring the situation this season and given the significant pressure growers are currently under, it’s important that any decision to release the further 10,000 visas is timely and made ahead of the peak season.

Long term certainty for growth

“Earlier this year, the government’s food strategy reflected the sector’s ambitions to increase the amount of fruit and veg grown on home soil. To see this ambition realised, growers need longer term certainty.
“The NFU will continue to ask for a minimum of a five-year rolling SAW scheme to give growers the confidence to invest in their businesses, and boost Britain’s production of nutritious and affordable fruit and vegetables.”

Timescales

Through the Seasonal Worker visa route, businesses can recruit foreign workers to come to the UK for up to six months.

Defra has confirmed that the first 4,000 visas will be made available to operators next week to ensure that daffodil growers have the labour available for their harvest at the start of 2023.

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