European vegetable growers launch recruitment drive to attract seasonal workers

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStock/vikif
Image: iStock/vikif

Related tags: Seasonal, labour shortage, coronavirus

Over 10,000 people have responded so far to the UK’s drive to recruit seasonal workers to help pick and pack fruit and vegetables. The problem of a lack of seasonal workers is acute elsewhere in Europe.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, UK farms have a shortage of seasonal labour. British workers are being encouraged to apply for these paid positions on local farms across the UK.

The ‘pick for Britain’ campaign – launched by the UK farming industry and government -- aims to recruit up to 70,000 British workers to pick fruit and vegetables next month.

According to Hops Labour Solutions, which together with Fruitful and Concordia is working to help find people to fill positions on UK farms, more than 10,000 applicants that have applied so far. It said successful applicants will receive training on the farm and “can be assured that all farms, many of which are open fields, are following the correct procedures around safe working conditions during the coronavirus outbreak”.

It added: “The British growing season kicks off in earnest in May and we will have an increase in jobs in late April through the summer so please check back in with us for future opportunities. The first jobs are likely to be harvesting strawberries, green beans and salads as they are some of the first British crops.”

The problem of a lack of seasonal workers is grave in other parts of Europe. French minister of agriculture, Didier Guillaume, has estimated that the agriculture sector in the country will need over 200,000 people in the next three months to mitigate the absence of foreign workers. In total, France is estimated to require up to 800,000 seasonal workers for its harvesting season.

"I am calling on the men and women who are not working and locked indoors to join the great army of French agriculture,​" he said, adding that more "solidarity​" is needed so that "we may all eat".

Germany last week announced a complete ban on seasonal workers entering the country. The country, the largest in the EU, could face a shortage of about 300,000 seasonal workers who enter Germany every year, mostly from Romania but also Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Hungary, to help with fruit and vegetable harvests.

The Ministry of Agriculture has launched an online placement exchange to match farmers with voluntary seasonal workers.

In a joint letter Joachim Rukwied, President of the German Farmers 'Association (DBV), Franz-Josef Holzenkamp, ​​President of the German Raiffeisen Association, Martin Empl, President of the Association of German Agricultural and Forestry Employers' Associations, Dr. Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, Chairman of the Association of Organic Food Management, wrote to the German government to demand incentives to attract workers including an increase in the earnings limit for seasonal workers and the suspension of the professional test as a prerequisite for short-term employment.

In Spain the virus pandemic is threatening to ruin its yearly fruit harvest, which relies on foreign seasonal workers from Morocco. Spanish farmers warned the supply of workers has dropped 40%. According to the Spanish Ministry of Labour, Migration, and Social Security, over 19,000 seasonal workers from Morocco went to Spain last year. Most of them, 11,000, went to harvest strawberries and other berries in the Huelva province.

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