‘Pick for Britain’ website launched to solve urgent shortage of farm workers
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The government has launched its new “Pick for Britain” website to help farms recruit the seasonal workers they need to save the fruit and vegetable harvest during the coronavirus lockdown.
A new labour force is urgently needed to carry out the picking and packing jobs usually filled by the thousands of workers who come to East Anglia every year from Eastern Europe – but who will mostly need to stay at home this summer due to travel restrictions.
The lockdown sparked industry calls for a new “Land Army” to step forward and fill those gaps, including hospitality, retail and tourism workers who may be temporarily out of work.
But with an estimated 70,000 seasonal fruit and veg pickers needed to prevent the country’s crops being left to rot in the fields, the Pick for Britain website has been launched so farming businesses and agencies can post their vacancies and job-seekers can contact prospective employers.
Rachel Carrington, East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said: “Growers who rely on seasonal workers to grow, pick and pack our food have been extremely concerned about how to recruit this critical workforce. As the peak summer harvest approaches, we have been working closely with Defra to find solutions.
“We’ve already seen a fantastic response from the public, including lots of people who have contacted the NFU’s regional office and individual businesses in Norfolk to ask about farm work. That support is incredibly valued.
“We hope the Pick for Britain website will now act as a one-stop shop, allowing employers and recruitment companies to advertise vacancies and showing those looking for work what opportunities are available. There will be jobs to fill in the next few weeks but also throughout the season, which lasts into the autumn for some farm businesses.”
READ MORE: Could wartime-style ‘Pick For Britain’ campaign solve seasonal farmworker shortage?The Alliance of Ethical Labour Providers – comprising the Concordia, HOPS Labour Solutions and Fruitful agencies – says it has received nearly 50,000 applications of interest in its national programme to fill seasonal farm vacancies, but only 6,000 had opted for an interview.
Last week, one East Anglian firm – G’s Growers, based near Ely in Cambridgeshire – chartered a flight to fly in 150 skilled Romanian farmworkers to assist with its salad and vegetable harvest.
The company needs more than 2,500 seasonal workers at the peak of its season in late May. Beverly Dixon, the group’s HR director, said the firm was pleased with the initial response to its own “Feed Our Nation” campaign, which had already generated 2,000 calls, with 500 UK-based workers recruited so far – but experienced operators were needed to train them how to safely operate the picking rigs in the fields.