Coronavirus: Virus prompts recruitment drive for fruit pickers

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Scottish berry growers are looking to hire more than 3,000 fruit pickers to meet a shortfall in labour as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Angus Growers is targeting travel and hospitality workers facing redundancy as a result of the virus.

It is anticipating a shortfall of 3,200 workers - almost 80% of its workforce - as travel restrictions kick in.

The group wants people to pick strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

The majority of the Arbroath-based organisation's 19 farmers are spread across Angus, Perthshire and Fife.

Last year its growers produced more than 12,400 tonnes of fresh berries for UK consumers.

Disinfection procedures

James Porter, from Angus Growers, said: “For many years the Scottish berry industry has relied on recruiting workers from mainland Europe to provide seasonal labour to pick our crops due to a severe lack of availability of local workers.

"Due to ever growing travel restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus, we are now facing a shortfall of almost 80% of the workers required in Scotland to pick our crops this season.

“I know that many people are facing redundancy across the travel and hospitality industries and I would encourage anyone who is looking for work to visit our new dedicated recruitment site and apply."

Angus Growers said its pay rates were based on the national living wage, and accommodation was available on site for anyone not living in close proximity to one of its farms.

The organisation said it was following the latest UK and Scottish government advice and guidelines relating to Covid-19, including restricting access to sites to essential visitors only, keeping workforce teams isolated from one another and disinfecting procedures.

Mr Porter added: Thankfully, the risk of spread among farm workers is relatively low due to the open-air nature of harvesting activity; farms unlike offices, are large places where people can spread out.

“There is an opportunity here for us all to work together to feed our nation.

"We desperately need workers to help us harvest our berries and ensure the UK public can enjoy healthy, nutritious food during this period of uncertainty.”