Workers are flown in from Romania to work on fen farms
Farming giant G’s Fresh has flown in more than 100 people from Romania to work at its Soham operation just weeks after launching an appeal for local staff.
About a month ago the super farm, based in Barway Road just outside Soham, launched a huge recruitment drive when lockdowns made it nearly impossible to hire the usual army of foreign staff who work in their fields.
The first plane bringing 150 Romanian pickers landed at London Stansted airport two weeks ago. Arriving on a chartered flight, the staff were then bussed to the East Anglian farm in time for the beginning of picking season.
Beverly Dixon, human resources director at the company, said putting on the flight was honouring their commitment
“They are critically important to collecting the crops, in this case gem lettuces. They will underpin our efficiency as we train up the new British staff. Without them we would have crops rotting in the field,” she said.
As well as taking on foreign staff, the company has taken on hundreds of British staff.
“We have been encouraged by the number of British people who have applied,” said Miss Dixon. “There were many more who made an initial enquiry but some decided not to go ahead.
“From our perspective, to go from zero to 500 is a good start but if everybody was brand new it would be very hard.
“These workers from Romania know about the food safety. They will provide the platform while we train up the Brits.”
The company has introduced social distancing measures at its farm and where it was not possible has introduced physical barriers.
Rachel Carrington, regional director of the National Farmers Union, said in the organisation’s 112 year history its members had never faced anything like the Covid-19 crisis.
“The past few weeks have highlighted the strategically important role that food and farming fulfils within this country,” she said.
“Farmers have been working flat out, with the rest of the food chain, to help maintain food supplies in supermarkets during a prolonged period of unprecedented demand.
“There will be some serious challenges to overcome in the short-term. Labour availability remains a major concern in our region, despite the encouraging response there has been to appeals to help plant and harvest our food,” she said.