Several food growers have chartered flights to bring Eastern European workers to the UK to help with crop picking.
According to the BBC, up to six planes have been chartered between now and the end of June. The first, carrying 150 Romanian workers, is scheduled to land at London Stansted Airport today (16 April).
Upon boarding the plane, the workers will have their temperatures checked and will fill out a health questionnaire to check for coronavirus symptoms.
Last week, the National Farmers Union said it was “extremely concerned” about the lack of workers on farms, while the British Growers Association expressed concern about the impact the travel restrictions because of the coronavirus would have on the sector’s ability to recruit crop-pickers – many of whom come from abroad.
However, jobs sites including Totaljobs, Monster and Indeed revealed a massive increase in the number of searches for crop-picking jobs from the UK in the past month.
G’s Fresh, a food producer based in Cambridgeshire, told the BBC it had chartered two flights carrying farm workers from Romania. The business required 3,000 seasonal workers, with many needed for the spring onion harvest in May and the pea and bean harvest in June, and had also launched a local recruitment campaign.
The NFU estimated that 70,000 seasonal workers were needed this year to ensure the fruit and vegetable crops do not go to waste and supermarket shelves are stocked.
Vice president Tom Bradshaw said: “Growers that rely on seasonal workers to grow, pick and pack our fresh fruit, veg and flowers are extremely concerned about the impact coronavirus restrictions may have on their ability to recruit this critical workforce this season.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was “working hard” to ensure growers had the support they needed for the harvest.
A spokesperson said: “We are encouraging as many people as possible to take part in seasonal working opportunities across the country to help bring the harvest in, and recruitment efforts by industry are well under way.”