More than 3,000 fruit pickers are required by Scottish fruit company, Angus Growers, to meet the shortfall of an anticipated 80 per cent of their workforce unable to travel through Europe during this time.
Targeting travel and hospitality workers facing redundancy as a result of coronavirus, the company is looking for people who can help match last year’s harvest of more than 12,400 tonnes of fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries for UK consumers.
Angus Growers said its pay rates are based on the national living wage, and accommodation is available on site for anyone not living in close proximity to one of its farms, which are spread across Angus, Perthshire and Fife.
The organisation said it is following the latest UK and Scottish government advice and guidelines relating to Covid-19, including restricting access to sites to essential visitors only, keeping workforce teams isolated from one another and disinfecting procedures.
James Porter from Angus Growers stated: “Thankfully, the risk of spread among farm workers is relatively low due to the open-air nature of harvesting activity. Farms unlike offices, are large places where people can spread out. There is an opportunity here for us all to work together to feed our nation.
“We desperately need workers to help us harvest our berries and ensure the UK public can enjoy healthy, nutritious food during this period of uncertainty.”
Meanwhile in Woodbridge, Suffolk, one farmer took to Twitter to seek nearly a hundred workers for his asparagus harvest, due to the travel restrictions on his seasonal employees from mainland Europe. Bruce Kerr normally relies on 90 pickers from early April for an eight-week season, but found that with borders staying shut and movement limited, he hoped to recruit people local to the farm to fill the shortfall.
“A lot of the vegetable and fruit industry is reliant on seasonal workers and obviously asparagus is one of the early crops, it’s fairly imminent in terms of harvesting,” he said. “We are putting a call-out for local communities to come and assist us anyway they can going forward.”
The social media post has gained over 1.5K retweets and almost 900 likes, leaving Mr Kerr feeling “overwhelmed” by the response and ready to contact those who would like to be a part of the asparagus harvest.
Those who have expressed interest include an agricultural student whose university has closed due to coronavirus, Mr Kerr stated.