Farmers fear for the harvest as 80,000 workers are needed to keep food on Britain’s tables despite 10,000 signing up in volunteer land army
- Britain needs 80,000 more people to sign up to help farmers with their harvest
- Some 10,000 have already volunteered as asparagus set to be ready next month
- Environment Secretary George Eustice said he was already talking to farmers
- He said there was a ‘gap’ in the workforce and called for British workers to fill it
- It came as economists warned that food prices could surge in UK shops
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Britain needs 80,000 more volunteers to harvest its crops in the next few months despite a 10,000-strong land army already signing up.
Some 10,000 volunteers across 500 UK farms will not be enough, Stephanie Maurel, chief executive of the charity Concordia, told The Guardian.
Asparagus is set to be picked from next month but workers who usually come from overseas to work on the harvest have been held back by COVID-19.
Some 80,000 more workers are needed in order to properly clear the fields of all available produce, Ms Maurel, whose charity is working on the Feed the Nation scheme, added.
Some 10,000 volunteers across 500 UK farms will not be enough, said Stephanie Maurel, chief executive of the charity Concordia. Asparagus will be ready to be harvested from next month
‘We’re worried that there’s going to be a shortfall,’ she said.
Of the 10,000 who have signed up almost 90 per cent are from Britain, less than a third have any experience in agriculture and half said coronavirus had affected their jobs.
Andy Allen, from Portwood Farm in Norfolk, said he didn’t expect to make any money from his harvest this year because of the lack of help.
‘Due to European workers not being able to make their way to the farm this ear because of closed borders and cancelled flights, we have been short on the 130 workers we need to pick and pack our asparagus,’ he added.
‘This year our job is purely about feeding the nation, there is no money to be made.’
It comes after Environment Secretary George Eustice said that he was already talking to farmers about filling a ‘gap’ in the European temporary workforce in the UK’s fields caused by the global coronavirus shutdown.
He urged people to sign up to help get in the harvest and help fill ‘people’s plates’.
It comes after Environment Secretary George Eustice said that he was already talking to farmers about filling a ‘gap’ in the European temporary workforce
The National Farmers’ Union warned its members are already seeing prices cut and payments delayed because of disruption to the supply chain caused by reaction to the virus.
A spokesman added: ‘Growers that rely on seasonal workers to pick, pack and grade our fruit and veg are extremely concerned about the impact coronavirus measures may have on their ability to recruit workers this year.
‘The industry is already working hard to promote available roles on farm locally, recognising that this could help those who unfortunately find themselves out of work.
‘We are urging the government to address this situation as soon as possible and to implement any solution as a matter of urgency.’
It comes as:
- The Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus but is only displaying mild symptoms, Clarence House announced.
- The Foreign Office announced that Steven Dick, 37, the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Budapest, died after contracting coronavirus.
- NHS England’s medical director said hundreds of thousands of tests for Covid-19 per day could become a reality within weeks.
- Boris Johnson urged London Mayor Sadiq Khan to ‘get more Tubes on the line’ but resisted calls to ban non-essential construction workers from heading to building sites.
- Parliament is set to adjourn for an early Easter break after emergency legislation to tackle Covid-19 is approved.
- The Prime Minister confirmed that ministers are considering asking black taxi drivers to act as a transport service for NHS workers.
- Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, yesterday told MPs that he is confident the health service will remain ‘within capacity’.
Economists have warned that food prices could surge in UK shops, with increasing numbers of workers either ill themselves or unable to cross borders because of restrictions on movement designed to slow the spread of the disease.
Would you like to apply to work on a UK farm this summer?
Got to HOPs Labour Solutions to sign up to be a volunteer.
Mr Eustice said: ‘Our farmers are doing a fantastic job of feeding the nation during this immensely challenging time.
‘I have been speaking with industry today and in the last week about the critically important issue of seasonal workers, who usually come from Europe to pick fruit and vegetables.
‘We need to mobilise the British workforce to fill that gap and make sure our excellent fruit and vegetables are on people’s plates over the summer months.
‘There are already brilliant recruitment efforts underway by industry and I would encourage as many people as possible to sign up.
‘We will also be looking at other ways to make sure farmers have support they need ahead of the busy harvest months, while also keeping workers safe and protected.’
Increasing numbers of workers are either ill themselves or unable to get to the fields because of restrictions on movement designed to slow the spread of the disease
The problem is not just confined to the UK, with France’s agriculture minister Didier Guillaume calling yesterday for a ‘shadow army’ of laid-off workers to help bring in the harvest.
Ministers and experts in the UK have been at pains to tell the public there is no shortage of food, in a bid to discourage panic-buying.
Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s chief economist said that food prices were ‘starting to emerge as a concern’, in an interview with the Telegraph.
‘There is a real challenge if, as the crops come on stream, there aren’t the people that can go and pick the crops,’ she said.
‘How do you get people to do these roles and how do you make sure, if we’re still in social distancing, that they are not getting too close to each other?
‘There’s real pressure on supply so there is certainly some concern.’
France appealed on Tuesday to workers laid off by the coronavirus crisis to help farmers pick fruit and vegetables that will otherwise be left to rot in the fields due to a shortage of seasonal workers.
Farmers forecast a nationwide shortage of around 200,000 farm labourers over the harvest period as tight border restrictions imposed to help curb the spread of coronavirus make it much harder to recruit from outside France.
This has raised the prospect of strawberries, asparagus and other crops rotting in the fields.
Ministers and experts in the UK have been at pains to tell the public there is no shortage of food, in a bid to discourage panic-buying
With hotel receptionists, restaurant waiters, hairdressers and many others deprived of work by an unprecedented lockdown, Mr Guillaume told them to ‘join the great army of French agriculture’ in an interview to a French TV channel.
France has so far reported nearly 20,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and around 860 deaths.
Christine Lambert, head of France’s biggest farm union, FNSEA, said the farm sector needed 45,000 labourers in March and 80,000 in both April and May to help farmers, mainly to harvest fruit and vegetables.
‘Due to the closure of the Schengen borders but also to movement restrictions in Europe, the Poles and the Romanians who used to come won’t anymore,’ Ms Lambert wrote on Twitter.
‘If our call is not heard the production will remain in the fields and the entire fruit and vegetables sector will be damaged,’ she added.
Source: Read Full Article