Worcestershire university students and anyone looking for work are being encouraged to mobilise behind British growers and Pick for Britain.
While lots of local people have answered the call from the National Farmers’ Union and applied to pick fresh fruit and vegetables in Worcestershire over the summer months, more are needed as the usual EU workforce are unable to get to Britain, and there is a danger that fresh food could be left to rot.
On April 21, Defra launched a new Pick for Britain website. The NFU says up to 80,000 seasonal fruit and veg pickers are needed to help with the harvest, or the crops may be left to rot in fields. There are a wide range of roles available, from pickers and packers, to plant husbandry and tractor or forklift drivers.
Defra’s Pick For Britain website is live and offers information on how to apply to a number of recruiters on farms.
Emma Hamer, National Farmers’ Union county adviser, added: “Worcestershire is a regional hub for fruit and vegetable production and our members are extremely concerned about the impact coronavirus restrictions are having on their ability to recruit this critical workforce this season.
“The county has around 180 horticulture businesses set over 4,500 hectares and these, alongside our other farm businesses, are vital in terms of food production, to our economies, communities and environment.
“Our growers rely on seasonal workers to grow, pick and pack our fresh fruit, veg and flowers, including the county’s famed asparagus, and the NFU remains in talks with national and local Government to find innovative and creative solutions to this urgent problem.
“There are vacancies opening up in fields, polytunnels, glasshouses and packhouses across the county and we need people to help us deliver healthy, affordable British fruit and veg from field to plate.
“We are hearing there has been a groundswell of support from Worcestershire people looking for work and further detail can be found at www.pickforbritain.org.uk on-line.”
Councillor Ken Pollock, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economy and Infrastructure for Worcestershire County Council said: “Worcestershire growers and agricultural businesses are a major sector of the county’s economy. The picking season in the summer months is crucial to the success or failure of these businesses and their ability to get the produce to market.
“Worcestershire’s growers have a great reputation for their high quality, fresh produce, including our internationally-renowned Evesham asparagus.
“I would like to thank everyone who has applied to join the efforts to keep these businesses thriving and Britain fed during this pandemic.”
The UK is over 40 per cent self-sufficient in indigenous Fruit supply and this is increasing. However the nation is less than 60 per cent self-sufficient in Vegetable & Salads supply and this is declining.