The Pick for Britain campaign generated huge interest—the website has received nearly 2 million unique page views since its launch—resulting in a significant increase in the numbers of UK-based workers filling seasonal roles in horticulture. DEFRA and the Home Office have been working closely to ensure the successful operation of the seasonal workers pilot and to undertake an effective assessment. The evaluation of the pilot is ongoing, and the results will be announced in due course.
Giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee several weeks ago, the Secretary of State claimed that one third of the seasonal horticultural workforce in 2020 was from the UK workforce. Could the Secretary of State provide the evidence to support that claim, and could he confirm what plans his Department has to meet the industry urgently to plan for next year’s labour requirements?
During the last summer season, I had regular dialogue and discussions with a number of companies involved in the horticulture sector. The general picture is that, at the beginning of the season, they did find a reasonably good or significant number of domestic workers who were keen to take these roles, and in many cases it was about a third of the workforce. Anecdotally, the reports are that it then drifted down during the course of the season and was typically below about 20% by the end of the season, but this came from a range of anecdotal evidence provided to us directly by growers.