An Angus fruit farm has said the number of people applying to pick fruit during the coronavirus crisis is “fantastic”.
Earlier this month, a call went out for people to help out on farms across Tayside to make sure enough fruit was getting picked and delivered to the shops.
Fruit pickers and farmers are classed as key workers during the outbreak, as they are vital at making sure enough food is being produced to feed the nation.
Now Jill Witheyman, from Angus Soft Fruits in Arbroath, said she was “pleasantly surprised” at how many people had applied.
She said: “We have received an incredible amount of applications and we are working through them just now.
“We put out some posters on social media looking for people to apply to pick fruit and we were really surprised at the numbers coming through, it is fantastic.
“There are all different kinds of people sending in applications, and quite a few have come from people who have been sadly made redundant, particularly from the hospitality and tourism sectors, and some students.
“These people have found themselves without a job for whatever reason, but most have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis.”
The UK government recently confirmed that workers currently on furlough (temporary leave from work) are able to supplement their income with work on farms, so long as their contract allows it.
Across Tayside and Fife 18 farms are currently advertising for pickers through NFU Scotland’s website.
NFU Scotland’s Horticultural Working Group Chairman, James Porter, who farms in Angus said in any typical year, 10,000 workers travel to Scotland from overseas to undertake seasonal work.
He added that clarification from HMRC on furloughed workers would encourage more people to come forward but it still remained “highly unlikely” the country would be able to recruit enough people to cover high seasons for fruit and vegetable picking.
Although for now Jill has enough applications at Angus Soft Fruits, she said further down the line more berry pickers will be needed, because every farm harvests at different times.
She continued: “This is a challenging time for all industries, and we are working hard to make sure social distance guidance is followed and practiced on our farms.
“This is still very early on in the season and most of our growers have not started picking yet, but there is still a lot of time to go.
“Because everyone picks at different times to make sure there is a consistent supply we will be looking for more people in the summer as well.
“But at this point, we have a lot of applications to be processing.”