IPP customers ‘inundated’ with offers to pick fruit this summer
British fruit growers have been inundated with requests for work from furloughed staff across the UK, who want to pick fruit this summer rather than sit at home.
In April, at the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, the government urged workers who may be outstanding in their particular field to offer to become outstanding in someone else’s, as the British Growers Association predicted a major shortfall in the 70,000 pickers needed to bring in what will be a record soft fruit harvest this year following the favourable weather conditions.
Last month (May), the Government launched a high-profile television advertising campaign ‘Pick for Britain’ to encourage wide sections of society to come and get their hands dirty in the national interest.
Concordia, the charity charged with filling the roles to ‘feed the nation’ during the crisis has seen more than 30,000 applications from furloughed staff with nine out of ten applicants coming from the UK.
Long-term growing and market garden customers of IPP, one of Europe’s leading poolers of sustainable wooden pallets, have seen a major spike in offers of help after foreign pickers were barred from entering the UK because of the pandemic.
Fresh fruit pickers
Customers including Stewarts of Tayside and Fife Fruits, who are delivering into the UK’s supermarkets on IPP pallets, have been approached by staff from a variety of backgrounds, who are having 80 per cent of their salaries paid by the Government for the duration of the crisis.
“There was a fear that British growers would struggle to get pickers this summer because of the pandemic and in part because of Brexit,” said Phil Storer, IPP’s director for UK and Ireland.
“Instead, what we hear is very positive as many furloughed staff have put their names forward to pick fruit rather than sit at home.
“Even customers whose harvest isn’t due until later in the autumn have received CVs from people who want to work,” he added.
One of these is Bardsley England, one of the UK’s premier apple growers in the Vale of Kent.
One of the directors of the family-run business, Georgia Bardsley, said: “It is not an immediate problem for us because our harvest is not until late summer, but we made it public that we have jobs available and a lot of people who are furloughed have come forward to offer their services.
"We are looking at these applications and are responding to them as we speak on a first come, first served basis.”