Defra Secretary George Eustice has labelled farmers 'hidden heroes' for keeping food on the nation’s plates during the Covid-19 crisis.
In an open letter to the food and farming industry, Mr Eustice paid tribute to 'all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed.'
The statement described farmers' response so far as 'extraordinary' and thanked those involved in food production on behalf of the country.
“In the face of what is perhaps the greatest health challenge this country has faced in our lifetime, I want to pay tribute to all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed," he said.
He went on thank those people working “in our fields, processing plants, factories, wholesalers, stores and takeaways and all those moving goods around the country and to our homes”.
It comes as food retailers face an unprecedented increase in demand, and those working in food production and distribution working harder to ensure that food are kept on the shelves.
“The last three weeks have been stressful and difficult for everyone working to feed the country and provide them with other essential items," Mr Eustice added.
"Having worked in the food industry myself, I am personally enormously proud and thankful for all the work that you have done in recent weeks, and will be asked to do in the weeks ahead.
“In many cases you are the hidden heroes, and the country is grateful for all that you have done.”
The letter comes amid a mounting concern that farmers still face a substantial shortfall of workers to help pick fruit and vegetables despite a campaign signing up 10,000 people.
Farm labour specialists Concordia, HOPS and Fruitful are currently inviting British people to apply for jobs picking and packing fruit and veg.
Mr Eustice has backed the campaign, saying the country needs to 'mobilise the British workforce'.
"We need to fill that gap and make sure our excellent fruit and vegetables are on people’s plates over the summer months… I would encourage as many people as possible to sign up.”