Downing Street has scrapped the Pick for Britain campaign to recruit British workers for seasonal farm roles after as little as 5% signed up.
According to The Grocer, the government is now focusing on removing barriers to recruitment rather than running another national campaign.
This comes as estimations suggest Britons made up between 5% and 11% of the 70,000 picking and packing roles over the 2020 season.
Jack Ward, CEO of the British Growers Association, fears the situation could get worse this season as the UK continue to battle Covid-19 and the impacts of Brexit.
“I think June/July will be the test period when you’ve got the salads, soft fruit and brassica industries all flat out. They’ll need a total of 40,000 to 45,000 workers for that peak period,” he said.
“In addition to the 30,000 [SAWS permits] there are those with settled and pre-settled status. But you’ve got the complication of whether people will turn up [due to Covid-19 in Europe]. There’s no room for complacency and I suspect it’ll be another challenging and difficult season.”
The Department for Work & Pensions, which runs Job Centres, will lead the charge to reduce recruitment barriers.
In April last year, the government was forced to urgently fly in 180 Romanian workers as pickers to help farmers across Britain after it emerged that not enough Britons registered to work on farms.
The Alliance of Ethical Labour said it received 50,000 applications but of those, only 112 ended up taking the offer.