DEFRA has announced a five-year extension to the Seasonal Workers Scheme as part of a response to the Shropshire Independent Review into Labour Shortages. 

It will make 2,000 visas available for seasonal poultry workers that typically are recruited to help process seasonal birds for the Christmas market. 

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The visa allowance for 2026-2029 will be released later this year, Defra said. 

The NFU welcomed the extension, saying it gave ‘vital certainty’ to businesses.

The union’s president Tom Bradshaw said: “This will be a huge relief for the horticulture and poultry sectors that rely on seasonal workers and is a brilliant win for the NFU, which has been campaigning for a long-term plan for seasonal workers for some time.

Worker shortfall

“We have seen in the past how damaging shortages of workers has been, with approximately £60 million worth of crops lost in 2022 due to a shortfall of workers. 

“We know that with the correct trading conditions, there are significant opportunities for growth and the commitment to a five-year scheme is very positive. 

“Moving forward, it is vital to have assurance that the number of visas and the costs associated with accessing them will continue to meet the needs of our food producers.”