UK fruit and vegetable growers will be able to recruit non-EU migrants as seasonal workers after Brexit under a new pilot scheme.
Ministers say the initiative between spring 2019 and December 2020 will help tackle labour shortages during peak production periods.
The visas for up to 2,500 workers a year will last for six months.
The National Farmers’ Union had expressed fears staff shortages could hamper the harvesting of produce.
The scheme, which would run during a transition period after the UK leaves the EU, was announced by the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Ministers stressed that the pilot will be closely monitored and could close if there is evidence migrant workers were not returning to their home countries when their visas expire.
Commenting on the pilot scheme to bring seasonal migrant workers to the UK, Denise Rossiter, Chief Executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce said:
“This is good news, and it’s not before time. With most firms, across all regions and sectors, having difficulty filling job vacancies, it is critical that the government clarifies the rules for the new immigration system quickly.
“Now is the time to be shouting from the rooftops that the UK is a great place to live and work. We need an immigration system that is open and flexible to help firms attract and retain the skills and labour they need to compete in global markets post-Brexit.”
Chris Newenham, Joint Manging Director of Wilkin & Co, added “While this is a positive step in the right direction, the devil is always in the detail and we have many questions on which we will seek clarity and reassurance.”