Produce left to rot as labour shortage kicks in

Growers of fruit and salad crops have warned that fruit and vegetable crops could be left to rot in the fields as the picking season gears up and there are signs that the initial enthusiasm of British workers to work in the fields.

With just a fraction of overseas workers in the country, it is unclear how many of the 70-90,000 seasonal workers required by agriculture and horticulture will be available. Worcestershire apple grower Ali Capper, who is also executive chair of English Apples and Pears (EAP) said that only four of her 12-16 Polish workers had made it before lockdown, adding that she did not know where she would find the 70 workers needed in September.

To help growers EAP has launched a recruitment website to help fill the 10,000 roles it says its members will have between August and October. “Our newly launched recruitment campaign is designed to put people looking for work in direct touch with apple and pear growers who need help getting our delicious fruit from the trees to our tables,” explained Capper.

Early indications that British workers who had been made redundant or furloughed would be willing to work in fields may have been optimistic, with one grower saying that from 50 British workers at the start of the week, he was down to just seven at the end. Despite the Government’s Pick for Britain campaign, initial data shows that out of 50,000 home-grown applicants, 6,000 opted for an interview but only 112 took up the offer of a role on a UK farm. Reasons for not accepting offers cited by some of the 900 people who turned them down including being unable to accept the full length of a contract, the distance to the farm, care responsibilities or only wanting part-time work.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

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