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Farm boss says he flew 150 Romanian fruit and veg pickers to UK so they can teach new English land army how it's done


A farming boss says his company had spent £40,000 to fly 150 experienced Romanian farm workers to the UK to teach unskilled British fruit and vegetable pickers how to harvest. 

Anthony Gardiner, boss at G's Growers, chartered a Titan Airways AirBus 320 flight to get the team of 'critically important' pickers to the UK, which landed at Stansted Airport on Friday. 

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents more than 30,000 landowners and rural firms, issued a nationwide appeal for Brits join a new 'Land Army' of farm workers to pick fruit and vegetables amid the coronavirus lockdown.

So far, more than 32,000 people have signed up - but only around 4,000 have actually opted to interview for a role. 

Some of the reasons for turning down the job included the length of the contract, location of the farm, and inability to work full time because of care responsibilities, according to the recruitment company Concordia.

Gardener said that the Romanian pickers were desperately needed to help the firm's 500 recently recruited UK workers 'up to speed' and 'comply with food and hygiene standards.'  

And he admitted was the first time since the days of Margaret Thatcher in the eighties that British workers would outnumber foreigners on his farms.

Meanwhile Beverly Dixon, HR director for the company, said: 'By putting on this flight we are honouring our commitment to those who have worked with us over a number of years.

'These workers from Romania know about the food safety. They will provide the platform while we train up the Brits.' 

'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.'

It comes as farming bosses have warned that British crops may 'rot in the fields' unless 80,000 farm workers are found.   

More flights are expected to follow in the next few weeks.