Romanian workers flown into Britain to work on farms after UK recruitment fails

Romanian workers flown into Britain to work on farms after UK recruitment fails

Romanian workers flown into Britain to work on farms after UK recruitment fails

Farm workers are today being flown into Britain from Eastern European countries including Romania, after UK recruitment drives failed to secure the number of workers required for the season.

The decision follows widespread concerns that will produce will rot in the fields, and that the UK’s food supply chain would fail amid the coronavirus crisis if workers were not found urgently.

Many of the first workers to arrive are set to be dispatched to farms in Lincolnshire, with the first flight arriving today.

One charter firm says it expects to book at least another six UK-bound flights in the coming days.

Matthew Purton, the Head of Commercial Aviation at Air Charter Services, told The Guardian that Romania lifted certain restrictions to allow farm workers fly to overseas, but had put in place procedures to reduce the risk of coronavirus contagion. He said:

“All passengers will be temperature checked, will have to fill in a questionnaire for a health declaration and will be given hand sanitiser and masks on the flight.

They will also be socially distanced in the seating.”

The farming industry says it will need as many as 90,000 workers to harvest fruit and vegetables.

One company issued an appeal to students, laid-off restaurant and hotel staff which attracted 35,000 applications of interest, but only 5,500 decided to continue to interview.

As such, many farms across the nation have now decided to hire from Eastern Europe after local recruitment drives have failed.

Attempts at recruiting British workers included a ‘Feed the Nation’ initiative in the form of an online map whereby farms owners and workers could connect with one another.

According to Lincolnshire Live, more than 100 of the 180 fruit and vegetable pickers being flown to the UK today will be put to work harvesting crops on farms in Lincolnshire.

The Country Land & Business Association has said that the number of British volunteers is simply not high enough. A spokesperson said that recruits are desperately needed to avoid food ‘rotting in the fields’:

Mark Bridgeman, President of The Country Land & Business Association said:

“Over 30,000 people have come forward to help farmers, following the call to ‘Feed the Nation’, through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is great news and shows a tremendous attitude at these difficult times. But this excellent response in not enough – we need 80,000 people to ensure fruit and vegetables are picked on time this summer.

“Where it is possible and safe to do so in the current circumstances, bringing in workers from overseas to help meet the shortfall is the right thing to do if we want to keep the supermarkets stocked.

“However we would strongly encourage people from across the country to keep coming forward and signing up with recruitment agencies.

“There are good jobs available and great opportunities for those currently furloughed, unemployed or students.”

As farm workers are flown into Britain from Romania, workers have also been transferred to Germany, with eight flights so far, and more expected soon.

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