Coronavirus UK: Fears over food shortages rise as pandemic disrupts imported goods

Coronavirus UK: Fears over food shortages rise as pandemic disrupts imported goods

The UK faces food shortages unless 70,000 Britons harvest the country’s fruit and vegetables. Those who “do their duty” will receive £15-an-hour, and will help counter the disrupted flow of foods being imported into Britain as a result of the pandemic.

So far more than 30,000 people have asked to join a new “Land Army” to “pick for Britain” and “feed the nation”.

The group is, however, 40,000 heads short of what is needed by early May.

Moreover, only a third of those signed up have ever worked on a farm, furthering worries over logistics and efficiency in collecting enough produce.

There is also growing confusion over how these workers will travel to the farms, share accommodation, and work safely while maintaining social distancing.

This comes as Pubic Health England works to complete its official guidance.

Last night the Treasury intervened in order to speed up the process of gathering volunteers.

It did this by deciding which farmers and food plants will be allowed to recruit furloughed workers after pressure from the National Farmers’ Union.

Those furloughed will be able to keep their 80 percent wage allowance of up to £2,500-a-month paid for by the taxpayer, in addition to the £15-an-hour wage paid for the farm work.

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He added: “’If we don’t get these fruit and vegetables picked people will have less choice in the supermarkets and fewer fruit and vegetables on the shelves.”

The global nature of coronavirus has left farmers around the world struggling to get seasonal workers to harvest their produce.

Mr Bradshaw said the combination of travel bans, fewer international flights, the rising cost of road weight and lorry drivers becoming ill or self-isolating made for a logistical nightmare in importing goods.

He said: “International supply chains are becoming more unstable – but we have the fruit and vegetables we need here.

“But unless we get our British crop picked we may have some shortages of food.”

Experts have admitted they are “nervous” about whether it is possible to find enough workers at such short notice.

If unsuccessful, tonnes of food will be left to rot in fields across Britain.

Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association, said 40,000 people are needed by the end of the month, but warned that many will not be retained due to the tough nature of the work.

The work is usually carried out by migrant workers from easter Europe, but travel bans and restrictions have cut the usual amount of those workers by 90 percent.

Published at Thu, 09 Apr 2020 04:25:00 +0000