There is a high demand for non-UK workers in agriculture and in the wider food supply chain. Veterinarians, who provide certification for the import and export of animals to third countries and provide official controls at food exporting premises, abattoirs and border inspection posts, are currently on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
In February 2020, the Government published a policy statement on a points based immigration system, to take effect from 1 January 2021. The statement was clear that the Government would “not implement a route for lower-skilled workers”, because “we need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation”.
In 2017, the EFRA Committee conducted an inquiry on Feeding the nation: labour constraints, focusing on agriculture and horticulture, and took further evidence in 2018. In 2018, the UK Government announced a two-year Seasonal Workers pilot scheme to allow 2,500 non-EU nationals to come to the UK for 6 months each year to provide seasonal, agricultural support for fruit and vegetable farms. In February 2020, the Government confirmed the expansion of the pilot to allow farmers to hire up to 10,000 workers in 2020.