Just 112 out of 50,000 UK applicants turn up to replace Eastern Europeans fruit picking
PUBLISHED: 14:41 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:58 28 April 2020
AP/Press Association Images
Around 50,000 people in the UK responded to the government’s appeal to replace Eastern Europeans in fruit and vegetable picking - but just 112 turned up.
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The Alliance of Ethical Labour received 50,000 applications expressing interest in helping pick crops during the coronavirus lockdown after the government launched its “Pick for Britain” initiative.
But the Telegraph reports that out of the strong number of applications just 6,000 opted for a follow up video interview for a role.
Around 900 then rejected the job offer, with just 112 taking the offer of a seasonal job on a UK farm.
Reasons given by Britons for not taking the jobs included candidates unable to work the full length of the contract, the farm was too far away, they did not want to commute, they only wanted part-time work, or they had caring responsibilities to prevent them working them full-time.
“I am quite worried that we have had thousands of people apply but when it comes to the nitty gritty, we will only get tens coming through,” said Greville Richards, managing director of Southern England Farms, told the newspaper
“If there are good people out there who want to come, then we’ll take them. It’s hard work and it’s long hours but it’s good money. It gets my back up when they say people are coming here on the cheap.
“They do earn their money, they work hard but what is concerning is that that is putting off a percentage of the British workers. That is what we are finding quite difficult.”
Over the weekend the environment secretary George Eustice encouraged those furloughed workers to take a second job in the fields to help with the efforts.
The government has been attempting to evoke a “land army” spirit to ensure that fruit and vegetables on British farms do not go to waste.
The industry has previously warned that there is a shortfall of 70,000 workers, with farms previously relying on an up to 90% Eastern European workforce.
Earlier this month the British Growers Association warned more will be needed from May onwards to deal with the fruit and vegetables that will need to be picked.
Jack Ward, chief executive, said: “This is a long game. The salad season will run well into October and growers have got to be very confident that they have got enough labour for the entire season.
“We could be in a very different situation let’s say by July 1.”
It came as 160 Romanian pickers were flown in to help farmers at the start of the coronavirus lockdown, with the industry suggesting there may need to be more.
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