Romanians flown in to work on British farms - as furloughed UK staff reminded they can apply

Fruit and vegetable pickers have been flown from Romania to the UK to keep up with demand.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 2:22 pm
Updated Friday, 17th April 2020, 2:23 pm
Fruit picking in the UK. Picture: Getty

A plane carrying Romanian workers was chartered by one of the UK's largest producers of vegetables, G's Growers, and landed at Stansted Airport on Thursday.

Up to six flights have reportedly been organised to bring Eastern European farm workers to Britain.

The chartered trips have been arranged to help ensure there are experienced workers in the fields alongside new UK recruits, the British Growers Association has suggested.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Meanwhile, the campaign to attract more Uk workers onto farms has been met with "a terrific response."

And the Government has said that furloughed workers can apply for temporary farm jobs.

G's said in a statement that it has worked in line with advice from Public Health England and that the returning workers will allow teams to "have a percentage of experienced workers, who will help train and keep our new workforce safe".

Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association, said he expected the "vast majority" of seasonal workers this year will be British but that businesses cannot run "on enthusiasm alone".

He said there had been a "terrific response" to a campaign to recruit more British workers this year.

"If anything we've been overwhelmed with offers of help," he said. "It's been an amazing response."

Read More

Read More
Furloughed staff can apply to work on farms - here's how

The "crunch" will come from May onwards when 35,000 to 40,000 workers are required to pick crops such as lettuce and berries, Mr Ward added.

"This is a long game," he said. "The salad season will run well into October and growers have got to be very confident that they have got enough labour for the entire season.

"We could be in a very different situation let's say by July 1."

A campaign to recruit more British seasonal workers was launched last month, amid concerns that travel restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19 have made it difficult to recruit enough pickers from Eastern Europe, where many have come from in previous years.

The UK government has confirmed that workers currently on furlough (temporary leave from work) are able to supplement their income with work on farms, so long as their contract allows it.

In fact, the government is actively encouraging furloughed workers - along with students - to seek work picking fruit and vegetables on farms in the coming weeks.