The Soil Association has described the government’s proposal to fill seasonal horticulture jobs with unemployed Brits as “unrealistic and short-term”.
The agricultural charity, which developed the world’s first organic certification label in 1967, questioned the Department of Work and Pensions, after reports today that they were attempting to “rebrand” fruit picking in job centres.
Echoing the government’s proposed recruitment drive, Nick Marston, of British Summer Fruits, told The Times that the depiction of farm work often overly negative. “Farm work is always portrayed as very low paid and back-breaking but it is not the arduous work it was 15 to 20 years ago. The work is almost all done standing up because the strawberries are on tabletops. The pay, including productivity bonus, is substantially more than working in the hospitality industry,” he said.
But Soil Association policy officer Honor Eldridge, said the UK’s labour force won’t be able to solve the shortage, which is now forcing horticultural companies to look abroad.
“The government’s suggestion that unemployed British workers can fill seasonal horticulture roles like strawberry picking is an unrealistic, temporary and short-term solution,” Eldridge said.
“UK workers are unlikely to consider these jobs and consequently access to migrant workers needs to be maintained to meet the increasing labour shortage.
“We agree that a more future-focused vision of horticulture is needed, one that connects to the priorities of young people and shows British workers how rewarding these jobs can be. To this end, the Soil Association’s Future Growers programme offers training and provides an attractive entry point into small and medium-scale horticulture businesses.”