Furloughed employees will be encouraged to pick fruit amid lack of migrant workers

Furloughed workers will be encouraged to take up fruit picking to help stem the shortage of labour caused by fewer migrant workers coming to the UK.

Sunday, 26th April 2020, 4:41 pm
Environment Secretary George Eustice. Photo: PA

Environment Secretary George Eustice told the daily coronavirus briefing at Downing Street today that it was expected just a third of the usual number of migrants would come to the UK this year to help pick the country’s produce - and they were likely already in the country before the lockdown began.

He said: “We’re also acutely aware that we’re about to start the British season in fresh produce, in soft fruits and salads.

“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.”

He added: “It’s not an issue at the moment since the harvest has barely begun, but we do anticipate that there will be a need to recruit staff for those sectors in the month of June.”

Mr Eustice also said the Government had been working with local authorities to ensure people who are not clinically vulnerable but in need of help can get the food that they need.

“We recognise that there are others that are not clinically vulnerable and therefore not in that shielded group, but who may also be in need of help,” Mr Eustice said.

“Perhaps through having a disability, or another type of medical condition, or indeed being unable to draw on family and neighbours to help them.

“So we have been working with local authorities to ensure that those people can be allocated a volunteer shopper to help them get their food needs.”

He said charities can now make direct referrals on the Good Samaritan app to locate volunteers for those in need.

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