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Covid 19: Pick For Britain – Gale Backs NFU Campaign

April 17th 2020

I am throwing my weight behind the “Pick for Britain” campaign to recruit a “Land Army” of people to harvest this year`s crops in East Kent

Last autumn fruit was left unpicked and rotting on trees because of a shortage of labour – and that was before Covid 19 had been heard of. That shortage was as a result of foreign labour hitherto imported to do the work but deterred by Brexit and by the threat of tough immigration laws.

This year the pandemic is added to the equation and with borders locked down it is still harder to recruit fruit and vegetable pickers from overseas as land routes are shut. That is why some farms are resorting to charter flights to bring in agricultural workers from Romania.

There is, though a huge pool of able-bodied men and women who, because of Covid 19, are unable to go to work as usual but who need and would like to earn a living. With asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, salad vegetables and then apples to be harvested there is a great opportunity, promoted through the “Pick for Britain” campaign, to create work and get the job done. The Kent Land Army site also offers access to employment and there are agents ready, willing and able to recruit for famers who need staff prepared to get out in the fresh air and get picking.

Clearly there are issues – travel to farms is one and social distancing is another - to be resolved and nobody should pretend that harvesting is anything other than hard work but we have always been good at finding ways to get things done in a crisis and a crisis on the land is what we are facing now unless we get our food producers – the farmers – the hired help that they need. The message is clear: if you can, get “Picking for Britain” .

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