Coronavirus travel restrictions in Britain and the European Union are leaving British fruit and vegetable growers desperately short of about 70,000 seasonal workers — just weeks ahead of the first harvests.
March 21, 2020 — UK farmer associations are appealing for help to replace migrant farmworkers normally drawn from across the EU. It’s reminiscent of WWII “Victory Gardens” when Brits gave farm helpers priority.
Britain’s Farmers Weekly reports that new demand is also intensifying the need for on-farm food production help:
National Farmers Union horticulture chairman Ali Capper said changes in eating habits were exacerbating the situation. More people were spending more time at home to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus. This meant they were 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. This week Mr Johnson was again asked if supplies would last.
“We are absolutely confident our supply chains are working, and will work, and we will get farm to fork food supplies,” he told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday (17 March). “People should have no reason to stockpile or panic buy.”
Former NFU deputy president Guy Smith said the crisis could change the way the UK looks at food security and production. But he added: “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.”
Here’s the link to the Farmers Weekly report on British farmers’ appeal for extra workers in fresh product production.