The Home Office announced the Seasonal Worker visa route has been extended until the end of 2024, to allow foreign workers to come to the UK for up to six months to pick edible and, for the first time, ornamental crops.
The extension of the scheme has been a key NFU lobbying ask as part of work that has seen a catalogue of evidence offered to the government.
The NFU has estimated that the demand on the seasonal worker scheme could be as high as 55,000 in 2022 due to falling numbers of EU nationals and challenges recruiting domestic workers.
However, Defra has said visas will begin to taper down after 2023 as part of a transition to 'employing and prioritising domestic workers'.
Responding to the provisions for 2022, NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: “This is positive news for the thousands of fruit, veg and flower growers that rely on essential seasonal workers to help pick, pack and grade our iconic fresh produce. These growers will be extremely relieved to have clarity over the future of the scheme for the next three years.
“We have worked very closely with ministers and officials to secure the additional visas and the inclusion of ornamentals, which is something we have been calling for and is desperately needed for flower and plant growers across the country.
“With labour shortages so rife across the entire food supply chain, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and engage with the government on the sector’s needs.”