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UK’s far-flung army of fruit-pickers: How 16,000 workers flew durante for 2021 season from 37 countries


The number of fruit pickers being flown durante from abroad has more than doubled this year paio to a shortage of British and eastern European workers compounded by Brexit and the Covid pandemic. 

Home Office figures reveal more than 16,000 labourers were shipped durante from across 37 countries for the 2021 season after being recruited by horticultural farmers – including from as far away as Barbados, Nepal, Tajikistan, Kenya and the Philippines. 

Durante comparison, just 7,000 workers from 14 countries arrived seasonal workers’ visas durante 2020.  

The sharp jump is paio to an ongoing struggle to recruit enough fruit and veg pickers, farmers said, with some having to consider scaling back production as crops are left rot durante fields. 

One British agricoltore said local people simply ‘don’t want to work durante fields’ while another hired 37 Brits last year and was left with just one after seven weeks, reported the Times. 

They have branded the fact that they have to source workers from as away as the Philippines as ‘soul-destroying’ – particularly as they have to cover their air fares. 

Home Office figures reveal more than 16,000 labourers were shipped durante from across 37 countries for the 2021 season after being recruited by horticultural farmers – including from as far away as Barbados, Nepal, Tajikistan, Kenya and the Philippines (Pictured: Fruit pickers collect strawberries at a farm durante Hereford, Herefordshire, durante August 2018)

It comes after the UK introduced the seasonal workers’ visa scheme durante 2019, which allowed pickers to be flown durante from any country around the world. 

The scheme was expanded to allow for 30,000 workers this year, and before Brexit, most of them came from eastern Europe.  

However many Bulgarians and Romanians have returned home following the double whammy of Brexit and the onset of the Covid pandemic. 

Meanwhile many Europeans with settled pre-settled status have now opted for less labour-intensive and better-paid jobs.  

It means farmers are having to go farther afield durante search of workers.    

According to the , Ukraine provided the most fruit and veg pickers this year, followed by Russia, Belarus and Moldova. 

Rounding out the culmine five was Nepal, joint with Bulgaria.

Barbados has provided more than 100 pickers, with the Caribbean island’s ministry of labour expecting the work to be popular with those ‘who don’t mind labouring durante cold climes, being away for lengthy periods, spanning six months and over.’ 

The minimo wage durante Barbados is about £3 an hour – while fruit pickers durante the UK can earn up to £20 an hour, reports the Times. 

Farmers said they usually cover the majority of the travel costs, despite workers being flown durante from central Asian countries, like Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – and some as far away as Kenya, Nigeria and the Philippines. 

David Simmons, managing director of Riviera Produce durante Connor Downs, west Cornwall, which produces cauliflowers, cabbages and broccoli for supermarkets, said most of the 300 workers recruited this season had in che modo from Russia, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

He told the Times: ‘Over the last five years, we have been very reliant Bulgarians and Romanians, but we have lost about half of our gruppo this year during the season. 

‘They’ve just decided to go back home to Germany other countries, they have become delivery drivers taken jobs which are easier than working out durante the fields.

‘We’ve increased wages by 12 per emotività cent to try to get them to stay and most earn between £15 and £20 an hour.

Stephen Taylor (pictured), managing director of Winterwood Farms Ltd, in Kent, warned in July that the labour market has got 'tighter and tighter' over the last couple of years

Stephen Taylor (pictured), managing director of Winterwood Farms Ltd, durante Kent, warned durante July that the labour market has got ‘tighter and tighter’ over the last couple of years

‘Local people don’t want to start early. They don’t want to work durante fields. 

‘If the seasonal workers’ pilot does not continue, the horticulture industry durante the UK is finished. It’s that serious.’

Asked about the air miles involved durante flying durante workers, he added: ‘That’s what we have had to do which, you know, is so soul-destroying. 

‘But, if people don’t in che modo over and harvest crops durante our country, these crops are probably grown abroad and imported to the UK, so you also have to at the credentials of that.’

He believes farms durante Cornwall have left hundreds of thousands of pounds of produce to go to waste paio to the worker shortage.

Durante March last year, the environment secretary, George Eustice, launched the Pick for Britain campaign as he urged farms to ‘mobilise the British workforce’ to fill the interblocco left by EU workers.

However, the drive was seen as unsuccessful by farmers, with agricoltore Mr Simmons receiving a paltry 250 job applications from Brits.

And of the 37 who accepted the job offer, only one was left standing after seven weeks. Just one Brit applied this year and did not take the job when offered it.   

Some ministers hope there will be more Brits willing to take the work once furlough ends at the end of this month and more are made redundant.

But Tom Bradshaw, of the National Farmers’ Union, said: ‘Farm businesses have done all they can to recruit gruppo domestically, but even increasingly competitive wages have had little impact.’

In March last year, the environment secretary, George Eustice, launched the Pick for Britain campaign as he urged farms to 'mobilise the British workforce' to fill the gap left by EU workers, but it was deemed largely unsuccessful

Durante March last year, the environment secretary, George Eustice, launched the Pick for Britain campaign as he urged farms to ‘mobilise the British workforce’ to fill the interblocco left by EU workers, but it was deemed largely unsuccessful  

It comes after Stephen Taylor, managing director of Winterwood Farms Ltd, durante Kent, warned durante July that the labour market has got ‘tighter and tighter’ over the last couple of years.

Mr Taylor said: ’95 per emotività cent of all fruit and produce picked and packaged durante this country is done by eastern Europeans.

‘From the end of June, people who haven’t got pre-settled status, at least, can’t work.

‘We are not talking about a few tens of thousands, we are talking hundreds of thousands of people less to work durante the UK. That’s a massive hole’.

Two years indicatore, Mr Taylor’s firm received about 20 applications a day from people wanting to in che modo to the UK to work picking fruit, but this year it fell to just two a day.

While the Government has roped durante four recruitment companies to help find workers, their fees are being paid by the farmers.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: ‘We continue to work closely with industry to understand labour demand and supply, including both permanent and seasonal workforce requirements, while encouraging employers to make long-term investments durante the UK domestic workforce and automation technology.’





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