UK farmers are calling for a 'land army' to sustain UK food production during the coronavirus crisis. Agricultural body leaders have raised concerns about a lack of available labour because of the coronavirus, with one calling for a “land army” to be recruited from people put out of work by the crisis.
Restrictions in place because of the virus are likely to prevent many of the 60,000 seasonal labourers who come to the UK each year to work on farms from travelling, and the supply of domestic workers is also expected to be reduced.
Farmers in many parts of the country are already struggling after months of severe floods, and the supply of seasonal workers was already in doubt because of Brexit.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents more than 30,000 landowners and rural firms, estimates that the shortage of workers could hit 80,000 at a crucial time and leave crops rotting in the fields.
Farmer's recruitment tweets
Suffolk farmer Bruce Kerr is asking for people to help pick crops as his regular team of pickers are unable to travel from mainland Europe due to coronavirus. Kerr said he normally relied on 90 pickers to harvest asparagus from early April for an eight-week season. To fill the shortfall, he said he was hoping to recruit people local to the farm which is near Woodbridge.
Kerr said he had been "overwhelmed" by the response to his Twitter post and is contacting those that want the work. "A lot of the vegetable and fruit industry is reliant on seasonal workers and obviously asparagus is one of the early crops, it's fairly imminent in terms of harvesting," he said.
"But if these borders stay closed for a long period of time it could impact dramatically on a number of colleagues in our industry. We are putting a call-out for local communities to come and assist us anyway they can going forward."