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'Unacceptable delays' have placed British producers 'at bottom of Government's priorities list'

14 May 2021

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee remains concerned that Britain's food supply chain may not be able to secure sufficient labour for summer 2021 under the Government's new immigration policy. The Committee has published the Government's response to its December 2020 report, and expresses disappointment in the Government's last-minute approach to finalising the details of its recruitment scheme for overseas seasonal workers.

The Government only announced the final two of four operators for its Seasonal Workers Pilot on 5 May.

As peak harvesting season approaches in many sectors, the Committee is concerned about the tight timeframe left for operators to recruit labour overseas and supply staff to those farms who need them.

The group of MPs also repeats its call for the Seasonal Worker Pilot scheme to be broadened to include other food supply chain and agricultural sectors beyond edible horticulture.

The Committee is also concerned about recent evidence of shortages of skilled workers, especially Official Veterinarians (OVs) working in abattoirs.

Over 9 in 10 of these key workers are EEA-qualified. The Committee's report called on the Government to closely monitor the impact of its new immigration policy on the supply of such skilled workers.

However, despite the Government's assurance of 'diligent' work on ensuring the supply of such workers, the Committee notes recent evidence of OV capacity shortage in abattoirs.

Although registration standards have been temporarily lowered as a short-term solution, the Government has not said how it intends to fill these jobs in the long term.

Chair's comments

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, said:

"It is now May, with peak harvesting season almost upon us, and yet the Government has only just appointed the final two operators for the Seasonal Workers Pilot.

"British Growers have been placed at the bottom of the Home Office's priorities list, and the unnecessary uncertainty could prove costly for producers.

"Despite last year's 'Pick for Britain' pilot scheme, our report made it clear that overseas labour is still very much needed, and the Government's efforts to recruit more domestic labour cannot hope to be sufficient for this summer's harvest.

"As the reports of daffodils going unpicked this spring made clear the need also goes well beyond just edible horticulture.

"Before Christmas, we warned the Government of the huge consequences of keeping plans for seasonal labour vague until the very last minute.

"There can be no excuse for further hold-ups—the Home Office need to start listening to the agricultural sector now to minimse the impact on British farmers."

Further information

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