The increase in seasonal workers' visas is a step forward and will be a relief for growers struggling to find a skilled workforce, the NFU says. Earlier this week, the government unveiled 45,000 new visas for seasonal workers for 2023 as the sector continues to struggle with labor shortages.
Defra said the Seasonal Agricultural Worker (SAW) visa expansion would allow horticultural businesses to recruit foreign workers to come to the UK for up to six months. This is an uplift of 15,000 compared to what was available to farming businesses at the start of this year.
Defra said this number would be kept under review with the potential to increase by a further 10,000 if necessary. The first 4,000 visas will be made available to operators next week, the department added. Labor shortages are affecting countries around the world, but the UK food and farming sector - heavily reliant on migrant labor - warns that it is suffering as a consequence of Brexit and the pandemic.
Soaring energy and fertilizer costs have only added to the pressure, which resulted in £60m of fruit and vegetables being wasted in the UK in the first half of 2022 alone. The NFU said the increase in visas was a 'positive step forward' for the sector so it could continue producing the nation's fruit, vegetables, and ornamentals.
However, for some growers, the union warned this announcement would have come 'too late,' with some already having made the difficult decision to reduce production in the coming season.
Read the complete article at www.farminguk.com.