On Wednesday 19 February, the UK government set out the new plans for a points-based immigration system, designed to open up the UK. Still, the government has come under fire from farmers and industry groups for failing to adequately consider the impact of its proposed new immigration policy on the UK agricultural sector.
In a statement on the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) website, President Minette Batters expressed serious concerns about the plans, saying that British food and farming, the country’s largest manufacturing sector, “is at the very core of our economy and any immigration policy must deliver for its needs.”
“We have said repeatedly that for farm businesses, it is about having the full range of skills needed – from pickers and packers to meat processors and vets – if we are to continue to deliver high quality, affordable food for the public,” she added. “Failure to provide an entry route for these jobs will severely impact the farming sector.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice confirmed that the expansion of the seasonal workers pilot, which was launched in 2019, will allow farmers to hire up to 10,000 workers in 2020, up from the previous 2,500 workers that the scheme allowed.
In a statement on the UK government website, Eustice said the “farmers and growers I’ve spoken to have made a powerful case for needing more workers during the coming busy months.”
NFU Kent branch
Toby Williams, chairman of the Kent branch of the National Farmers Union (NFU) said the announcement by the government of a quadrupling of the numbers who could be recruited under the scheme fell short of what would be needed.
“Horticulture is very reliant on seasonal workers and there is a risk that there will not be enough people to do the work. Quadrupling the scheme to 10,000 goes nowhere near what the industry has been asking for, which was 70,000 because there was such a shortfall last year.”