Britain’s farmers are issuing an urgent appeal to the ex-military community to join forces to help keep pace with food supplies during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Veterans have the ideal skills needed to help farmers at this uncertain time. The work required is physically demanding so applicants need to be physically fit.
Former military personnel also have the stamina to work until the job gets done. Hard graft goes hand in hand with being in the military.
Sarah Boparan, Hops Labour Solutions operations director spoke to Richard and Verity on BFBS Radio and said:
"We're recruiting ex-military because they are ideal for the type of work that we're doing.
"We really need some strong, outdoor sorts who don't mind getting stuck in so, we need you."
Some 70,000 seasonal workers are usually required annually on British farms – with many coming from overseas. However, travel restrictions and tighter border controls are having a significant effect on the number of people able to travel to the UK. Sarah said:
"The pandemic's caused an interesting scenario and hopefully we can match people that don't have employment opportunities with decent jobs."
With the soft fruit harvest due to get fully underway next month, labour provider Hops Labour Solutions said seasonal workers, defined as key workers by the government, were urgently needed to help pick and process fruit and vegetables on farms and in packhouses. About what the successful applicants will be asked to do Sarah said:
"You'll have to lots of harvesting work so from strawberries to brassica to driving tractors to being in pack houses.
"The work is really varied depending on the farm we place you on."
It has launched a new scheme with the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, encouraging people to apply for jobs on farms.
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Farm jobs could provide an income for students, job seekers and anyone who had been laid off work due to the impact of coronavirus.
How Can I Help?
The following two recruitment agencies piloted the government’s seasonal workers scheme and are looking for staff:
The following industry organisation, which represents 95% of all British grown berries purchased by the UK’s supermarkets and retailers, is also looking for workers to help harvest crops and get fresh fruit and vegetables to the public:
- British Summer Fruits - 020 7575 7654
Sarah explains that the UK urgently needs a labour force to help harvest crops to feed the nation. She said:
“At a time when international travel is restricted and people are panic buying due to the Coronavirus, it is crucial that growers can provide enough British produce to our supermarkets and local shops.”
British workers could help support the industry in jobs that are usually filled by EU workers.
Change In Habits
Ali Capper, the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales (NFU) horticulture chairman said that changes in eating habits are exacerbating the situation.
More people are spending time at home to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus. This means they are buying more food from supermarkets rather than eating out.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already urged shoppers to be sensible after supermarket shelves were left empty by people stockpiling food.
At a press conference on March 17, Mr Johnson was asked if supplies would last. He said:
“We are absolutely confident our supply chains are working, and will work, and we will get farm to fork food supplies.
“People should have no reason to stockpile or panic buy.”
Guy Smith, former NFU deputy president said the crisis could change the way the UK looks at food security and production. He said:
“This is not the time for the farming industry to seek to take political advantage, it’s time for the industry to ask what it can do to help.”