Hundreds of workers from India and Bangladesh have expressed an interest in seasonal farm work since the announcement of the pilot scheme last year.
By Alice Dyer and Lauren Dean.
Sam Zubaidi, operations and development manager at labour provider Concordia, said he had been inundated with interest from non-EU workers and that demand for jobs was very high.
Speaking at a horticulture and potatoes ‘cracking the labour nut’ workshop at NFU conference, Mr Zubaidi said: “The day after we announced we were going to be operating the pilot scheme we had 300 emails from India and Bangladesh and I am continuing to receive them.
“We are inundated with people wanting to work on a daily basis and I am receiving calls from agents representing thousands of workers who are willing to come over.”
Audience delegates however highlighted the need to ‘burst the trend’ of the sector’s reliance on eastern European workers, instead pointing to the importance of recruiting British workers.
UK employment is at its lowest in 40 years and NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairwoman Ali Capper said growers facing labour shortages should adopt a marketing ploy to target workers specified to their own seasonal needs.
She said: “We are working really hard to recruit out of our local population. We need about seven people at peak to pick apples and hops – last year we had six locals who were mostly good.
“Every sector has got different issues and nuances, and in our case we really need people in September and October. So this year our farm is focused on trying to target students who are finishing their A-Levels and looking at a gap year.”