Farmers seek fruit pickers as coronavirus risks seasonal labour

Industry leaders say they 'urgently need a UK workforce'

Friday, March 20, 2020

UK farmers have made an urgent appeal for Brits to apply for farming jobs, as travel restrictions imposed over Covid-19 threaten the arrival of seasonal labour.

Tens of thousands of seasonal workers arrive in Britain to work on farms each year but growers say this could be severely impacted by the new coronavirus travel advice.

Labour provider HOPS has now launched an appeal for British workers to apply for jobs picking and packaging produce in time for the soft fruit season to begin next month.

The company’s operations director Sarah Boparan said: “We urgently need a UK labour force who can help harvest crops to feed the nation.

“At a time when international travel is restricted and people are panic buying due to the coronavirus, it is crucial that growers can provide enough British produce to our supermarkets and local shops. 

“As the peak season for soft fruit picking gets underway, HOPS are calling on British workers to help support the industry in jobs that are usually filled by EU workers.”

It comes as workers in the hospitality and leisure sectors, as well as small businesses, face uncertainty over the effects of the outbreak on their income.

Ms Boparan said that HOPS can offer paid positions for those facing “sustained periods away from their usual employment or studies”.

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary George Eustice has downplayed fears over food shortages as consumers continue to stockpile despite warnings against it.

He told MPs: "There isn't a shortage of food; the challenge that we've had is getting food to shelves in time when people have been purchasing more.”

Boris Johnson has also urged members of the public to “be reasonable”.

The Prime Minister said: “Of course everybody understands why people are buying stuff, we’re all being advised to stay at home if we think we have symptoms and so on but please be reasonable.

“Please be reasonable in you shopping and be considerate and thoughtful of others as you do it.”

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