UK ‘may run out’ of fresh produce without more workers on farms

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Fruits and vegetables in a heart shape over a white background

London– UK farmers have called on workers to take up jobs on farms that have been hit by a devastating shortage of migrant labour due to the coronavirus pandemic, warning that fresh produce will go to waste if it not harvested within the next few weeks leading to shortage of stocks, it was reported on Monday.

Due to tight travel restrictions imposed by the governments around the world amid the pandemic, some 90,000 positions need to be filled in the UK, many in just a few weeks’ time, according to a report in the London-based Metro newspaper.

Agricultural workers from eastern Europe usually fill the majority of roles which now need to be urgently filled by British workers or fruit and vegetables will be left unpicked, the report said.

British Summer Fruits, which represents soft fruit growers, has set up an interactive map on its website showing the locations of farms around the UK and the jobs on offer.

Last year, 98 per cent of fruit pickers — now classed as “key workers” — came from outside the UK, the vast majority from Bulgaria and Romania, according to the report.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said he hoped to “mobilise the British workforce” to fill the labour gap and ensure fruit and vegetable stocks can get to families in the coming months.

“There are already brilliant recruitment efforts underway by industry and I would encourage as many people as possible to sign up,” he was quoted as saying in the Metro newspaper report.

The UK, which is currently in a lockdown, has so far reported 19,784 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,231 deaths. (IANS)

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