Britain should rediscover the “great movement” of the Land Army to bring in the harvest, the Prince of Wales has said, as he urges those capable to make a “vital contribution to the national effort”.
The Prince, who described the work of picking fruit and vegetables as “unglamorous and, at times, challenging”, said the “hard graft” would be “hugely important” to avoid food waste as the side-effects of the corona pandemic continue.
Offering his support to the Pick For Britain campaign, a government drive to recruit hard-working jobseekers for agricultural work, the Prince said: “We need an army of people to help”.
In a message recorded at his Scottish home of Birkhall, the Prince emphasised the essential need for members of the public to take up roles in seasonal harvest work in an industry struggling to recruit and retain staff.
It had been hoped 80,000 jobs - usually filled by seasonal workers from the EU - would be taken by eager students, those out of work and others seeking to do their bit to combat food shortages.
But the campaign has so far struggled to recruit, with applicants dropping out after learning they were required to work full-time, away from home or in all weathers.
The Prince, who contracted a mild version of Covid-19 himself earlier this year, has now lent his voice to the effort.
“At this time of great uncertainty, many of our normal routines and regular patterns of life are being challenged,” he said in a video message.
“The food and farming sector is no exception. If we are to harvest British fruit and vegetables this year, we need an army of people to help.
“Food does not happen by magic; it all begins with our remarkable farmers and growers. If the last few weeks have proved anything, it is that food is precious and valued, and it cannot be taken for granted.
“This is why that great movement of the Second World War - the Land Army - is being rediscovered in the newly-created ‘Pick for Britain’ campaign.
“In the coming months, many thousands of people will be needed to bring in the crops. It will be hard graft but is hugely important if we are to avoid the growing crops going to waste.
“Harvesting runs until the early Autumn and people are needed who are genuinely going to commit. The phrase I have often heard is: “pickers who are stickers”.
“I do not doubt that the work will be unglamorous and, at times, challenging. But it is of the utmost importance and, at the height of this global pandemic, you will be making a vital contribution to the national effort.
“So, I can only urge you to ‘Pick for Britain’.”
The Pick for Britain campaign has been launched by government in collaboration with the food industry, including the National Farmers’ Union, the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board and Waitrose & Partners.
At the end of April, it emerged earlier efforts to recruit had been less successful than hoped, with only 112 people out of 50,000 applications taking up roles.
Thousands who responded to the appeal dropped out after applying or receiving job offers, according to the Alliance of Ethical Labour Providers, as they learned the reality of the eight-hour a day job picking crops in all weathers potentially miles from home.