BRITAIN FEARS CROPS WILL GO BAD.
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.