Farms face labour shortfall despite 10,000 people signing to work

Approximately 10,000 people have signed up to work at more than 500 farms across the UK
Approximately 10,000 people have signed up to work at more than 500 farms across the UK

Farmers still face a substantial shortfall of workers to help pick fruit and vegetables despite a campaign signing up 10,000 people.

Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, UK farms are seeing a shortage of seasonal labour to help harvest and pack crops.

Despite a recent industry call for a 'land army of employees' to support farmers and growers, around 90,000 jobs still need filling.

Approximately 10,000 people have signed up to work at more than 500 farms across the country as part of the new 'Feed the Nation' campaign.

The initiative is being spearheaded by charity Concordia and agricultural labour specialists HOPS and Fruitful.

The groups are calling for British workers to apply for these paid positions on local farms across the UK to ease pressure.

Stephanie Maurel, chief executive of Concordia, told The Guardian that almost 90 percent of applicants are British.

Only a third of those who applied have experience in the farming industry, she explained. Half said the coronavirus had impacted their jobs.

But Ms Maurel highlighted farmers' worries that there's still going to be a shortfall, as 90,000 jobs need to be filled.

Defra Secretary George 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.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president, Mark Bridgeman said, however, that 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 said.

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

Feed the Nation said workers will 'at least' be paid minimum wage and 'many farms pay National Living Wage or more'.

All roles offered through the campaign come with training, which can last up to three weeks.

"You will be paid whilst you complete this training," Concordia said, "As one of the sector’s leading ethical provider of seasonal labour, every job with us comes with free insurance for all our participants which includes travel, health and dental cover.

"All successful applicants to our programme will receive high-quality training – which you are paid to complete.

"Through us and our partners you will have comprehensive travel and health insurance and be supported 24hours a day should you need it."

The charity added that all farms are following the correct procedures around safe working conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.

"Ensuring our workers' safety is our top priority," it added, "You can be safe in the knowledge that every site has been inspected by us, to ensure that it abides by the highest ethical and legal standards.

"All of our partners are highly experienced and agricultural recruitment specialists, and hold a GLAA licence, meaning you are in safe hands."