International charity Concordia is looking to put thousands of Britons who have lost their jobs to the Covid-19 pandemic to work on farms across the country, despite workers being flown in from Romania.
Sky News reported last week that a chartered flight of 150 Romanian field workers arrived in the UK to pick crops on British farms to ease concerns over unpicked food going to waste as the country looks to feed itself during the crisis.
Concordia has since started the ‘Feed the Nation’ campaign which is supported by providers of seasonal labourers HOPs and jobsite Fruitful and aims to help those who have been unemployed find seasonal work on farms across the UK.
The campaign has so far had more than 33,000 applications, of which the majority are British, but has only managed to place 125 workers onto farms.
It has been reported that up to 80,000 people harvest crops on British farms, but only 10-15% of these workers are based in the UK.
“We have now had several positive meetings with Defra secretary of state George Eustice looking to find innovative and creative solutions to mobilise the workforce needed in the coming months. There will be thousands of vacancies opening up in fields, polytunnels, glasshouses and packhouses across the country in the coming weeks.”
It had been reported that, as a result of the pandemic, there had been a record number of applicants for farming jobs.
Totaljobs says it has seen 50,000 searches for farming jobs as well as an 83% increase in applications for agricultural roles in the past month.
Searches for roles such as “fruitpicker” had increased by 338% and “farmworker” also saw a 107% rise in searches.
National Farmers Union vice president, Tom Bradshaw, said: “Growers that rely on seasonal workers to grow, pick and pack our fresh fruit, veg and flowers are extremely concerned about the impact coronavirus restrictions may have on their ability to recruit this critical workforce this season.
“There have already been positive moves from the Government to tackle this important issue, such as confirmation that furloughed workers will be able to collect wages through a second job and the introduction of a temporary licensing scheme for labour providers in the wider economy who wish to support food production in the coming months.
“We have now had several positive meetings with Defra secretary of state George Eustice looking to find innovative and creative solutions to mobilise the workforce needed in the coming months. There will be thousands of vacancies opening up in fields, polytunnels, glasshouses and packhouses across the country in the coming weeks.
“We are now working with industry partners, AHDB and Defra, to ensure a web-based solution is ready for the key recruitment time for the peak summer season needing to start this month.
“In the meantime, I would encourage anyone who is interested in helping pick for Britain this summer to contact one of the approved agricultural recruiters.”