Learn more about the 'Pick For Britain' campaign

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British farmers and growers are incredibly proud to be producing food for the nation at this crucial time, but with travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, they are facing huge challenges in recruiting seasonal workers.

Due to the current global lockdown, British farmers and growers are looking for local workers to take part in this year’s harvest to help pick and pack fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. A dedicated and hardworking workforce is crucial to ensuring the harvest and produce can go from the fields to the pack houses, then onto the supermarket shelves and into our fridges at home.

A dedicated ‘Pick for Britain’ website has been created by the UK government to bring together those looking for work and those looking for workers to ensure British farmers and growers can continue to deliver the high-quality fruit and veg they do each year.

There will be thousands of vacancies opening up in fields, polytunnels, glasshouses and packhouses across the country in the coming weeks for anybody seeking extra work, be that furloughed workers, those without work or anybody looking to work on farms this summer.

Frequently asked questions

Every year British fruit and veg farms require around 70,000 seasonal workers to help pick and pack the produce to ensure it can make its way to our supermarkets. A significant majority of that workforce usually comes from outside the UK and this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is unlikely they will be able to travel. As a result, farms are looking to the British public to help pick for Britain and bring in this year’s harvest. The peak picking periods are June, July, August, September and October.

We don’t know yet. We have seen a fantastic response from the public already who are keen to come and work on farms this year, so the industry hopes that it will be able to fill its vacancies.

Our focus is currently on mobilising a British workforce to harvest this year’s crop and ensuring that our iconic British produce continues to fill supermarket shelves. It is simply too early to speculate about the impact of a lack of pickers.

If you are unfortunately out of work or have been furloughed, there will be thousands of roles on farms that will need people to help bring in this year’s harvest. Not only can this provide income but it is also helping a nationally important industry get food to the public at such a critical time. The peak picking periods are June, July, August, September and October.

You can visit Pick for Britain, which has a directory of labour providers and farms that you may apply to. There is also the Find a Job service from the government, where you can search for farm roles near you and apply directly.

Did you know?

  • The UK horticulture and potatoes sector employs approximately 40,000 permanent workers with an additional 70,000 seasonal workers each year.

  • British farmers produce 3.5 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables every year.

The main harvest season kicks off in earnest in May but the peak is from June to October. It’s during that five month period that demand for workers is at its highest. That’s when we’re expecting the most jobs to be available.

We are currently at the start of this year’s harvest and we have yet to reach the peak season (June to October) where demand for workers is at its highest. We’re hearing that growers currently harvesting are just about managing for workers but as demand increases throughout the summer, we expect there will be thousands of vacancies on farms across the country. We would encourage the British public who want to work on farm to visit the Pick for Britain website to see current vacancies.

The majority of roles opening up on farms will be full-time, requiring particular skills and the ability to commit to a contract of three to six months. We recognise that this may not work for people interested in helping on a part-time basis but it is important to keep businesses operating. The interest shown by the public is fantastic and hugely valued by growers during this difficult time.   

All workers on farms have to undergo training on personal health, farm safety and food safety. It’s incredibly important that every worker on a farm goes through an induction process and farms across the country will be ensuring it happens with every new worker to make sure our high standards of food safety and personal safety continue.

Workers on farms across the country are usually paid the National Living Wage as a minimum, with incentives for quality and quantity which can see workers earn far higher average wages.

Seasonal work can be physically demanding but it depends on what crop you are harvesting. Generally, there will be a lot of moving up and down fields, bending, lifting, some work on your knees and sometimes long hours.

Farms are required to follow the social distancing guidelines set out by the government. Each farm will be different in how they manage that, depending on what crop they are harvesting.

The industry’s aim right now is ensuring we can mobilise the British workforce to come onto farms and pick for Britain. However, returnee workers are incredibly important for farm businesses, due to their skills and experience. They are well versed in the health and safety measures on farm, both for workers and food safety. Returnee workers are crucial to help maintain a good level of productivity on farm and to help train newer members of staff.

Growers have always tried to recruit locally but due to the seasonal and temporary nature of the work, the rural location and often long hours, there has historically been a lack of interest from local people. However, this is not a UK-specific issue. Every first-world economy relies on overseas workers to grow, pick and pack their produce. America, Canada, France, Germany, Holland and the rest of Europe are in the same position as the UK.

Last edited: 05 May 2020 at 14:58

Have your say

Paco Lopez - 30/05/2020 16:36:27

Ask pick for Britain to Nigel, Boris and to all the Brexiteers who call for rejecting non-qualified workers from EU...

Wendy Sinha - 17/05/2020 14:37:01

sorry to say, you won't get a "New Land Army" to help because things are too restricted these days. H&S etc, I get that. But early retired like me would gladly lend a hand for free, if we could just do say half days, 1 day a week, whatever. You just cannot physically commit to full working hours once you get to a certain age! Shame really. Young couples might like a "festival" type set up where they can pitch campervans for free and help out - don't mean shared mobile homes! Best wishes to you all.

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