News Sustainable Farming Campaign

Pilot scheme to bring 2,500 fruit and veg pickers to UK

The government announces a nationwide pilot to bring seasonal workers from outside the EU to work on British farms for up to six months. Sustain welcomes the news but believes it doesn’t go nearly far enough in filling the labour shortage.

Strawberries. Photo credit: Pexels

Strawberries. Photo credit: Pexels

Fruit and veg farmers will be able to employ pickers from across the world in an attempt to alleviate shortages in migrant workers. When announcing the scheme the environment secretary, Michael Gove said: “this two year pilot will ease the workforce pressures faced by farmers during busy times of the year. We will review the pilot’s results as we look at how best to support the longer-term needs of industry outside the EU.”

Vicki Hird, the Sustainable Farming Campaign Co-ordinator at Sustain, believes that the government needs to do more:

“This is a small bit of welcome news but it is clearly not enough given the demand for many tens of thousands in the agri-food industry. Crucially we need to see a move to support fair wages and conditions for English workers such as a new joint negotiating board for workers and unions. Our new briefing, Why would anyone want to pick our crops?, demonstrated the harm that losing the Agriculture Wages Board did for English workers - unlike Scotland and Wales - and why we need a new system now to protect and nurture our agriculture workers.”

Soft fruit production in the UK has grown dramatically, by 130% in the last 20 years, and harvesting is labour intensive. The government believes that for the UK to be at the forefront of the next agriculture revolution, farmers must look at ways that technology can reduce demands for labour by moving towards more automated harvesting.

Sustain campaigns for a food and farming policy which benefits the environment, health, animals, farmers and farm workers.

Published Tuesday 18 September 2018

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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