Calgary Herald - - NP -

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment is pre­par­ing to launch a Land Army-style “Pick for Bri­tain” cam­paign to pre­vent crops rot­ting in fields, The Daily Tele­graph un­der­stands, af­ter min­is­ters were urged by farmers to con­sider de­ploy­ing army re­servists.

A na­tion­wide ini­tia­tive is ex­pected to be launched within weeks to en­cour­age ev­ery­one from univer­sity stu­dents to laid­off hos­pi­tal­ity work­ers to pick fruit and veg­eta­bles in the “na­tional in­ter­est.”

The Depart­ment for the En­vi­ron­ment, Food & Ru­ral Af­fairs is also be­lieved to be in dis­cus­sions with the Depart­ment for Work and Pen­sions over the pos­si­bil­ity of di­rect­ing job seek­ers to­wards sea­sonal work.

The cam­paign car­ries echoes of Dig for Vic­tory and the Women’s Land Army, the two ma­jor na­tional cam­paigns launched dur­ing the Sec­ond World War in or­der to keep the na­tion fed.

With more than 500,000 vol­un­teers sign­ing up to help the Na­tional Health Ser­vice ear­lier this week, lead­ers in the farm­ing in­dus­try now hope to em­u­late the suc­cess of the Land Army.

It comes amid fears that Bri­tish crops are now at risk of rot­ting in the ground due to se­vere short­ages of sea­sonal labour­ers from eastern Europe as a re­sult of the coro­n­avirus out­break.

A gov­ern­ment source con­firmed that min­is­ters were look­ing at plans for a na­tional cam­paign, although they were un­able to say when it was ex­pected to launch,

The farm­ing in­dus­try has warned that travel re­stric­tions and the dis­rup­tion caused by the pandemic mean they will strug­gle to re­cruit the 80,000 work­ers needed for the har­vest.

In re­sponse, three of the U.K.’S larger labour providers have launched a “Feed the Na­tion” cam­paign, with at least 10,000 peo­ple, in­clud­ing for­mer mil­i­tary per­son­nel, al­ready signed up.

Univer­sity stu­dents, many of whom have been forced to re­turn home due to cam­pus clo­sures, have also been en­cour­aged to be­come fruit pick­ers dur­ing their long sum­mer va­ca­tion.

In­dus­try lead­ers have warned min­is­ters that a na­tional cam­paign must be launched ur­gently to en­sure enough work­ers are in place for the har­vest sea­son.

With 477,000 peo­ple ap­ply­ing for fi­nan­cial help in just nine days, it is hoped the huge de­mand for sea­sonal labour­ers could pro­vide a so­lu­tion for many peo­ple who have been laid off dur­ing the cri­sis.

There are also calls for the Trea­sury to draw up a sup­port pack­age for farmers, with sources in­di­cat­ing that the gov­ern­ment may need to un­der­write crops to guar­an­tee farmers’ liveli­hoods if har­vests fail.

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