Coronavirus: Farmers call for 'land army of employees' to support industry

Farmers are calling for urgent government assistance to help source workers workers amid the coronavirus outbreak
Farmers are calling for urgent government assistance to help source workers workers amid the coronavirus outbreak

Farmers are calling for a 'land army of employees' to support the industry in picking fruit and vegetables during the coronavirus pandemic.

As restrictions on day-to-day lives increase and challenges build, farming groups have warned that a lack of labour could affect the supply of fruit and veg.

Last year's figures show that 98 percent of harvest staff were from outside the United Kingdom.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) estimates that there could now be a shortage of 80,000 workers due to the Covid-19 crisis.



CLA president, Mark Bridgeman said the government must recognise that farmers' supply of labour is in 'jeopardy'.

“A shortage of 80,000 workers is something we have never seen before," he told The Guardian.



“That is why we are calling for a land army of employees to support farmers in feeding the country.”

The current economic effect of the coronavirus in the UK has already led to thousands of job losses.

To remedy this, workers hit hard by the virus's impact could be retrained to do farm work, Mr Bridgeman said.

“We need urgent government assistance to help source workers and advertise positions,” he said.

“Time is of the essence. If we fail to find these key workers, businesses will go bust.”

The NFU echoed this, saying the government must act quickly: A spokesperson said: “Growers who rely on seasonal workers to pick, pack and grade our fruit and vegetables are extremely concerned about their ability to recruit workers this year.”

“The industry is already working hard to promote roles on farms 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.”

It comes as farm labour specialists HOPS invited British people to apply for jobs picking and packing fruit and veg.

The berry sector has also confirmed it will soon commence a recruitment campaign to encourage British people to work on farms.