Record number of people looking for farming jobs after campaign

Record number of people looking for farming jobs after campaign

Tens of thousands apply for agricultural work after warnings over fruit picker shortage

More than 30,000 people have applied for farming jobs after a campaign to “feed the nation” began two weeks ago.

Jobs websites said they had seen record numbers of searches for farm work including fruit picking since farmers put out the call for extra staff.

The UK faces an imminent shortage of labour, with many of the migrant workers who typically do seasonal farm work unable to travel from their home countries due to restrictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Concordia, the charity tasked with filling the gap, said 30,000 people had expressed an interest and around 2,000 were currently being matched to roles on farms.

Almost nine in 10 of those who have applied are UK citizens and less than one-third have a farming background. About half of applicants were seeking work after losing their livelihoods due to Covid-19, Concordia said.

The latest round of jobs will start from the beginning of May when the UK’s soft fruit season begins with harvests of strawberries, raspberries and other summer fruits.

Recruitment website Totaljobs has reported a record 50,000 searches for farm jobs last week. Searches for “fruit picker” and “farm worker” rose 330 per cent and 107 per cent respectively.

The site has seen an 83 per cent jump in job applications for agricultural work over the past month.

Steve Warnham of Totaljobs said he had noticed “a trend of workers who have been temporarily displaced due to Covid-19 who are now looking for roles they can take on in other sectors to keep Britain moving.”

Other jobs designated as key by the government, including healthcare and logistics, have also seen a surge in interest.

Mark Bridgeman, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said it was “wonderful news” that tens of thousands of people had come forward but warned that many more were needed.

“We all know this is a deeply concerning period and we are all determined to do all we can to help the country through it. In order to do so, we must recognise that farmers’ supply of labour is in jeopardy,” he said.

“A shortage of 80,000 workers is something we have never seen before. This is why we are calling for a ‘land army’ of workers to support farmers in feeding the country.”

The campaign comes in the midst of one of the sharpest rises in unemployment on record, with more than 1 million new universal credit claims registered over the past three weeks despite government efforts to keep people in jobs by paying wages.