Just 200 out of 50,000 applicants have taken up roles picking fruit and vegetables on British farms because most wanted ‘part-time roles while they are furloughed’.
A staggering 900 have rejected jobs offers in the Land Army and only 6,000 have completed a video interview with the Alliance of Ethical Labour Providers.
It raises questions over how farmers are going to reap their crops when the influx of foreign workers usually seen at this time of year has been cut off due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
The majority of those who responded to calls to join Britain’s Land Army and help harvest rotting crops have now dropped out despite thousands of initial applications (stock image)
Reasons given for a candidate’s rejection included the farm being too far away from their home, an unwillingness to commute, and care responsibilities which made full-time work impossible.
But HOPS Director Sarah Boparan said it is also because people who have been furloughed are looking for short-term work while they are off, while farmers need workers for ‘weeks or months’.
She told MailOnline: ‘Often people are looking for short term or part time roles while they are furloughed as understandably most people want to be able to return to their usual employment as soon as possible.’
It comes as the Government launched its ‘Pick for Britain’ website to help farms recruit new workers ahead of the summer picking season, which will begin next month.
Up to 80,000 workers help farmers harvest their crops across the UK, the vast majority of which are from Eastern Europe. However, the coronavirus pandemic has stopped many of those workers travelling to Britain.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said on Sunday that although the international food chain was continuing to ‘work well’, he expected there to be a need to recruit staff in the UK to harvest crops at the start of summer.
Environment Secretary George Eustice (pictured) said on Sunday he expected there to be a need to recruit staff in the UK to harvest crops at the start of summer
The Alliance of Ethical Labour Providers, which is the main contract supplier to farms, received 50,000 applications but only 6,000 of these then completed a video interview
He said: ‘We estimate that probably only about a third of the migrant labour that would normally come to the UK is here, and was probably here before lockdown.
‘We are working with industry to identify an approach that will encourage those millions of furloughed workers in some cases to consider taking a second job, helping get the harvest in in June.’
Greville Richards, managing director of Southern England Farms in west Cornwall, said: ‘I am quite worried that we have had thousands of people apply but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, we will only get tens coming through.
‘If there are good people out there who want to come, then we’ll take them. It’s hard work and it’s long hours but it’s good money.
‘It gets my back up they say people are coming here on the cheap.’
New recruits are asked to undergo two weeks of self-isolation ahead of the start of a contract, followed by at least two weeks of training before they take on any work.