Growers have launched a large-scale recruitment campaign to encourage British people to provide seasonal labour to harvest crops, due to a severe lack of local workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The nation-wide initiative comes after shortfalls in migrant labour prompted farm groups to call on a ‘land army of employees’ to support the industry in picking fruit and vegetables.
This has seen the berry sector, including Scottish soft fruit supplier Angus Growers and British Summer Fruits collaborate to unite the public in a new ‘Feed Our Nation’ campaign (March 23), which will aim to attract over 3,000 Scottish workers to pick fresh berries on-farm.
Anticipating a shortfall of around 80 per cent of the workforce, NFU Scotland horticulture committee chairman James Porter said: “This is an unprecedented time and for many years the Scottish berry industry has relied on recruiting workers from mainland Europe to pick our crops.
“I know that many people are facing redundancy across the travel and hospitality industries and I would encourage anyone who is looking for work to visit our new dedicated recruitment site and apply.”
The site provides a map of farms currently recruiting for workers, with information on accommodation, training and income.
British Summer Fruits chairman Nicholas Marston echoed these concerns but added the Government would need to provide clarity on whether workers who had already been recruited from overseas, would be able to travel to the UK and work.
He said: “Workers hired to pick our fruit from Romania need to be able to travel to the UK. We need to know whether they are going to be able to travel to help us pick our fruit.”
The campaign follows moves by labour specialist HOPS, which invited British people to apply for soft-fruit picking positions via an online application process.
NFU Scotland (NFUS) has also followed suit by allowing farmers to advertise positions to those within the Scottish workforce who have found themselves out of work due to the outbreak, via an NFUS recruitment portal.
G’s nation-wide salad producer has similarly launched its ’Feed Our Nation’ campaign (March 24), appealing for British workers to help harvest crops in the summer months.
Beverely Dickson, HR director at G’s, claimed the campaign had received a ’tremendous’ amount of interest and highlighted the diversity of jobs available, adding: "There are lots of opportunities for young people who may have never thought about agricultural as a career opportunity."
Mr Porter added: “ Today we have launched a recruitment drive for our berry growers, however we are also looking at how the wider food supply industry can work together to ensure the continued supply of high-quality food.
“I would encourage anyone working in the food supply industry to please reach out to me to ensure we all work together for the good of the nation.”
To apply for a position on one of HOPS farms in the UK, complete the online form.
Angus growers has also urged anyone who has recently been made redundant and looking for work to visit jobs.angusgrowers.co.uk.
NFUS’s new portal for employment opportunities on farms can be found here.
G’s are encouraging people to apply for a variety of different roles here.