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Farmers 'will need an army' to help them harvest fruit and veg

Jeremy Best tends to his crops in Newquay.

The NFU says farmers will need an army of people to help them harvest fruit and veg in the coming months.

With a shortage of foreign seasonal workers, because of coronavirus, there are fears farms won’t have enough staff to pick crops.

Jeremy Best’s grows strawberries near Newquay in Cornwall. When picking begins in six weeks, because of coronavirus, he may not have enough staff.

We were having Czech workers, as well as British workers, and with the lockdown in every country in Europe the Czech workers will probably not be able to come.

We are looking to staff coming from local areas, but it’s not just us - I’m representing an awful lot of other businesses in Cornwall that grow fruit and veg and ornamentals and they are looking for workers as well.

– Jeremy Best
Jeremy is looking to the local area to find fruit pickers

It’s hoped people who are out of work because of Covid-19 will step in to support farmers this year.

One of the things we need are those people, those students from university and college, people who, sadly, might be now having to look for work.

We’d be really grateful if they got in touch to come and help that workforce and almost dig for Britain as we try to deliver and keep those supermarket shelves full.

– Melanie Squires, Regional Director, NFU South West

For an already stretched industry, the coronavirus has caused concern for all types of farming and led to the postponement of the West Country’s popular country shows. The Devon County Show has been moved to 28th-30th August and Royal Cornwall Show to 10th-12th September.

The Royal Bath and West Show will aim to start on 31st July. Its chief executive fears what impact that will have on the rural economy, particularly as rural businesses are being hit hard.

We’re now awash with milk, we’re awash with lamb because they’re being hit both ways as there’s nobody eating in restaurants and no fast food.

The challenge with the beef sector is that because fast food chains, such as McDonald’s, take such a high percentage of the forequarter meat, that’s the lower value meat, they’re not stocking anything at all and that has a negative impact on the price of beef generally.

– Rupert Cox, Chief Executive, The Royal Bath and West Show
The NFU warns farms across the country will be impacted

The NFU has now launched a new online service aimed at capturing the fast-moving impact of coronavirus on farmers and growers. It hopes to build a clear picture so the government is able to respond.