'They're deluded if they think Brits are going to work on the land': Farmer who took on 50 English workers to pick crops has just 7 left

May 4, 2020

A farmer who started the asparagus harvest with 50 British workers but now has just six left has blasted the Government as 'deluded' for not doing more to help. 

 Seasonal workers from Romania were due to fly out to help UK farmers pick their asparagus crop this weekend, but had their flights cancelled when their government enforced stricter lockdown measures.

 

It has left one East of England farmer, who wanted to remain anonymous, facing an 'absolute nightmare'.

 

Despite 50 furloughed British workers and students signing up to help at the farm, just seven remained as the asparagus harvest continued this weekend. 

 

The anonymous farmer told MailOnline: 'The Government who think British people are going to work on the land are deluded. It's not successful employing British workers. It's not a success.' 

 

Ali Capper, the Horticulture and Potatoes Board Chairman for the National Farmers' Union (NFU), revealed furloughed office workers might not be physically fit enough if they haven't used the necessary muscles before.

 

She said: 'These jobs are hard work. You have to be physically fit. For people used to an office or computer-based working life they will find they’re using muscles they haven’t used. 

 

'They’re quite physical jobs. They’re repetitive. It means working outside in all weathers. You do, for most of the jobs, need a good standard of manual dexterity meaning you can use both hands at the same speed.' 

 

Farm owners from across the UK have revealed some of their asparagus fields will be left to rot.

 

For this farmer a usually 130-strong workforce plummeted to just 70 when seasonal workers struggled to get flights from Romania to the UK. 

 

A lot of the flights for seasonal workers have been cancelled. We've had to stop production on some asparagus fields because we haven't got the workers,' the farmer added.

 

'We normally have 130 workers, we have 70. I took on a whole lot of English people. 

 

'We started with 50 but there are only six or seven left. It'll be the same story everywhere.'     

 

John Colegrave, farmer at Wykham Park Farm in Banbury, said he employed 20 British workers to pick the fields at his farm, but only eight are left because 'it's not everyone's cup of tea'.

 

'A lot didn't know what the job involved before they started. We had five who came and lasted an hour and said "I don't think this one is for me" and five or six that we had to sort of let go.

 

'They were willing but they were never going to keep up. We had a friendly discussion and they went elsewhere.'

 

Mr Colegrave put out an advert on Facebook for English pickers, and received 300 eager responses. 

 

Of the English workers who are left two are students and one woman in her 30s, who Mr Colegrave described as 'the best picker' after she 'took to it like a duck to water', travelled from her home in London to live with her aunt and work on the farm. 

 

Thankfully, the British workers who remain on the farm can keep up with the nine more experienced Bulgarian workers, Mr Colegrave revealed.

 

He said: 'I've got half the number of overseas pickers I would have normally. It's usually around 18 to 20 and they would all come from overseas.

 

Source: Mail Online

 

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