Pick for Britain
Defra has launched a website, Pick for Britain, to encourage unemployed or furloughed Britons to help with the fruit and vegetable harvest. Farmers and recruitment agents are urged to post vacancies on the website to attract applications. There have been conflicting reports of the response to the campaign to recruit pickers but it is hoped that more can be found to ensure that the fruit and vegetables reach the shops. It is estimated that 80,000 workers are required throughout the summer.
Plant Disease Threat
A bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, has wreaked havoc in olive groves in Italy and has also been found in France and Spain. Spread by spittlebugs and other sap-sucking insects, there is no treatment and it has caused the Italian olive harvest to be its lowest for 25 years. But the bacterium attacks over 500 different species including almond, oleander, lavender, rosemary, and even oak, elm and plane trees. Defra has introduced significant limits on the importation of vulnerable species.
There has been chaos in part of the dairy industry as a big processor, Freshway, faces financial pressure as it specialises in supply to the catering trade which is largely in lockdown. George Eustice, Secretary of State at Defra, has ruled out a specific bailout for the dairy industry on the grounds that most dairy farmers are not affected and it is a problem that the industry should sort out for itself.
The CLA and NFU are urging Defra to delay for twelve months the planned cuts to the Basic Payment starting next year. The proposed reductions are 5% up to £30,000 rising to 25% on sums over £150,000. The argument is that coronavirus coming on top of the disruption caused by the bad weather last autumn and winter means that Defra and farmers alike are ill prepared for the changes.