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The Observer on seasonal workers in the farming sector

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The Observer is running a story describing the potential decline in fruit and vegetable supplies due to fewer seasonal pickers available in the UK.

The coverage cites a tightening of the labour market – a combination of Brexit, the spread of coronavirus and the growth of domestic economies in eastern Europe attracting more seasonal workers – resulting in a drop in the number of fruit and vegetable pickers in the UK. The Observer did not approach us for a comment on this story and are have updated their online piece with our statement.

As the Environment Secretary has said, we are in regular contact with the farming industry to discuss the actions needed to support the sector on critically important issues such as seasonal workers.

As a government we’ve taken swift action to support the farming sector and other key industries with their response to coronavirus and have introduced a raft of new measures including:

  • Increasing funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no Business Rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) from £3,000 to £10,000.
  • The Business Interruption Loan Scheme which provides loans of up to £1.2 million for small and medium sized businesses with no interest due for the first six months will be extended to up to £5 million.
  • Government will be providing £330 billion of guarantees so any business needing cash can access a low-cost government backed loan. If demand if greater than initial £330 billion, then more capacity will be provided. This includes extension to Business Interruption Loan Scheme mentioned above, as well as new lending facility for larger firms.
  • The Government has designated those involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food as key workers whose children will be prioritised for continued school provision.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

“Our farmers are doing a fantastic job of feeding the nation during this immensely challenging time.

“I have been speaking with industry today and in the last week about the critically important issue of seasonal workers, who usually come from Europe to pick fruit and vegetables.

“We need to mobilise the British workforce to fill that gap and make sure our excellent fruit and vegetables are on people’s plates over the summer months. There are already brilliant recruitment efforts underway by industry and I would encourage as many people as possible to sign up.

“We will also be looking at other ways to make sure farmers have support they need ahead of the busy harvest months, while also keeping workers safe and protected.”

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