Thousands of British people have applied to work on UK farms following an urgent appeal to help feed the nation during the coronavirus pandemic.
Recruitment agency Hops Labour Solutions said it had been inundated with applications after warning of a shortage of seasonal workers to help harvest crops.
“It has been absolutely amazing,” said Hops operations director Sarah Boparan.
“We have had more than 6,000 people apply in two-and-a-half days. It has been a phenomenal response and we are so grateful to everyone who has applied.”
The UK requires some 70,000 seasonal agricultural workers each year – with many coming to work on UK farms from the European Union.
But Ms Boparan said restrictions imposed due to coronavirus meant many seasonal workers were now unable to come the UK.
“They are not able to get here and they are being restricted through travel or other issues related to Covid-19 – so it is time to look more locally.”
In Scotland, a group of berry growers has launched a recruitment drive for people affected by coronavirus-related redundancies to come and work on their farms.
Angus Growers is a group of 19 Scottish farmers who last year produced more than 12,400 tonnes of fresh berries for consumers across the UK.
This year, the group anticipates a shortfall of 3,200 workers – almost 80% of its workforce – due to the shortage of workers from mainland Europe.
Soft fruit grower James Porter said: “I would encourage anyone who is looking for work to visit our new dedicated recruitment site and apply.”
All growers pay workers in accordance with the Scottish Agriculture Wages Order, which is based on the national living wage, said Mr Porter.
“Accommodation is available on site for anyone who doesn’t live in close proximity to one of our farms, and full support and training will be provided,” he said.
Angus Growers is following the latest UK and Scottish government advice relating to coronavirus, including restricting access to sites to essential visitors only, controlling who comes in and out, and splitting farm workforces into teams which were isolated from one another.
Any workers who developed symptoms would be able to self-isolate in “caravan park” style permanent units on the farms
“Anyone suffering symptoms can isolate easily in a dedicated unit and have food brought to them for the period of time needed,” said Mr Porter.
Feed the nation
“There is an opportunity here for us all to work together to feed our nation. We desperately need workers to help us harvest our berries and ensure the UK public can enjoy healthy, nutritious food during this period of uncertainty.”
NFU Scotland has launched an online employment service – including an interactive map detailing job opportunities on farms.
Farmers looking for workers can complete a labour requirement form. Those looking for work can then apply for jobs using the contact details provided by each farm.