NFU media coverage of the impact of coronavirus

Sky News 1.5.20 LABOUR Ali Capper_73376

Any Questions

May 2020

Good Morning Britain reported the response from local people to the Pick for Britain campaign and heard from Angus Davison of Haygrove Farms in Hertfordshire, who said he was proud of the domestic workers he now employs to pick fruit after receiving 2,500 applications on the back of one Facebook advert. Watch from 10 mins. 

NFU President Minette Batters was on the BBC Radio 4 Any Questions panel and discussed the easing of lockdown restrictions and farmers’ concerns over countryside access, lessons learnt with regards to supply chains, and frustrations over the Agriculture Bill.

NFU urges government to drive domestic workers to apply for picking roles

May 2020

The Guardian writes about the Pick for Britain campaign, quoting NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw who explains growers still needed to recruit – and retain – as many as 40,000 British residents to harvest fruit and vegetables. NFU horticulture and potatoes Ali Capper is quoted saying that, while we need to bring forward large numbers of people, it is essential that the camapign attracts people who will sign up and commit.

The SunThe Telegraph and The Independent and Country Life magazine carried a video message recorded by Princes Charles released to coincide with the Pick for Britain campaign, in which he urges people to help bring in the harvest, describing the work of picking fruit and vegetables as "unglamorous and, at times, challenging" but emphasising that "hard graft" would be "hugely important" to avoid food waste as the side-effects of the corona pandemic continue. In an op-ed for The Sun, Defra Secretary of State mentions he has been working with the NFU to provide farmers with the workers they need.

The Associated Press reported the dangers of crops rotting in the fields without the necessary workforce to pick them, with NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper quoted saying farmers need clarity from the government about its immigration plans after 31st December and, with it, freedom of movement for EU citizens to Britain to help put in a long-term solution to potential labour shortages.

The Guardian reported warnings from the travel and farming industries about the impact of a quarantine period for all people arriving in Britain from abroad. NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw is quoted saying that while many people have come forward to work on farms, farmers are aware that some new recruits might not be able to adapt to the monotonous work of fruit and vegetable picking.

MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham Daniel Kawczynski mentioned the NFU's calls in recent weeks for support for the dairy industry in a column for the Daily Express, arguing that we need an equivalent business loan scheme for the agricultural and horticultural sectors as soon as possible. He also expressed his hope the public will be more determined than ever to buy British and supports calls for garden centres to reopen as soon as possible.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw was interviewed on talkRADIO about calls for workers to come forward and pick fruit and vegetables, saying it was encouraging to see most roles being filled in April but workers will be critical in harvesting crops during the peak picking months from June. He also covered how changing buy habits are having an impact on livestock farmers.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw was featured in a piece ran in The One Show about the workers that have come forward to pick asparagus at a farm on the Wirral. Tom explained that more workers would be needed during the peak season.

Former Kent NFU chairman Nick Ottewell was interviewed by CNN, explaining he has between 25-30 tonnes of lettuces a week that there is no home for due to the closure of the out-of-home sector. The piece also profiles the workers that have already come forward.

Yahoo reported new data suggesting British people are now more likely than migrants to search for jobs on UK fruit farms, according to jobs site Indeed. NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw is quoted highlighting the fantastic response from the public wanting to pick for Britain this summer.

The Daily Telegraph reported NFU President Minette Batters emphasising how food sites could encourage consumers to buy British by highlighting UK produce. The article also highlights NFU calls for immediate grants for dairy farmers in order to stop them from going bust and prevent a milk shortage after lockdown and asking Defra to open garden centres as soon as possible.

The Times reported concerns from some picking job applicants that the process is too complicated or are being offered work too far from home. The piece also profiles British workers who have come forward to pick asparagus and hears from farmers concerned that productivity is down due to a lack of experience amongst new workers.

BBC News profiled the workers on furlough or having recently lost their jobs who are coming forward to pick on farm. The NFU is quoted saying 70,000 workers will be needed come peak season at the end of May and start of June.

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper spoke to Sky News and talked about the locals who had come forward to work at her farm already and efforts to recruit furloughed workers and university students.

The Daily Telegraph reported how the sudden closure of the world's restaurants, hotels and caterers has caused an unprecedented demand shock for farmers – this time speaking to NFU potato forum chairman Alex Godfrey, who says the closure of fish and chip shops means some farmers have had to borrow to invest in large storage facilities.

NFU head of food and farming Philip Hambling is quoted in the piece saying that without support, many dairy farms would go out of business and if demand rebounds coming out lockdown, there may not be enough supply, causing the current glut and record low prices to be replaced by shortages and cost spikes.

The Times reports concerns from some picking job applicants that the process is too complicated or are being offered work too far from home. The piece also profiles British workers who have come forward to pick asparagus and hears from farmers concerned that productivity is down due to a lack of experience amongst new workers.

BBC News also profiles the workers on furlough or having recently lost their jobs who are coming forward to pick on farm. The NFU is quoted saying 70,000 workers will be needed come peak season at the end of May and start of June.

April 2020

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw was featured in an in-depth report from BBC5Live’s Nihal Arthanayake programme on calls from industry for people to come forward and pick this year’s crop. He responded to questions from listeners about the working conditions and emphasised that plenty of jobs would be coming up during the peak of the season in June, July, August and September. Listen from 15 mins.

The Daily Mail reported the applicants who have been unsuccessful in their attempts to get a job on farm. NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw is quoted emphasising that there will be thousands of vacancies opening up on farms across the country in the coming weeks and we have already seen a fantastic response from the public.

The Daily Mail ran a feature on the back of a The Sunday Times piece profiling workers on NFU horticulture board chairman Ali Cappers’ farm, as well as interviewing Tom Martin, Cambridgeshire farmer and chairman of the NFU Peterborough branch, who discuss the conditions on farm for pickers, including rate of pay, working hours and skills.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw was quoted in The Guardian saying there is now a large pool of people available to apply for picking work who haven’t been previously while the Daily Mail quotes NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper blaming reports that a national recruitment drive has failed on the narrative that migrant workers are 'stealing' British jobs.

Good Morning Britain broadcast live from NFU horticulture and potaoes board chairman Ali Capper's farm in Worcestershire and heard from workers already out picking about what applicants can expect, with Ali emphasising the peak of the picking season from June is when we will need people to come forward to pick. 

BBC Daily Kitchen Live and ITV Lunchtime News featured live interviews with Vice President Tom Bradshaw about the Pick for Britain campaign, why workers are urgently needed to come forward to pick fruit and veg this harvest, and how the public can get involved.

The Times reported the launch of the government’s online service, Pick for Britain, to mobilise farm workers, quoting NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw saying there will be thousands of vacancies opening up and that we've seen huge interest already.

The Sunday Times explored how farmers’ livelihoods are in peril during the current pandemic and cites NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw's comments on the opportunities to inspire domestic workers to Pick for Britain.

The Guardian reported comments from NFU President Minette Batters that she is optimistic that domestic workers will come forward to rescue the harvest and keep the nation fed, particularly since the government announced furloughed workers will be allowed to top up their income.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw was featured in on Sky News  and BBC5Live’s Drivetime programme highlighting the opportunity to empower domestic workers to pick Britain’s fruit and veg.

The Daily Mirror and inews carry reports of workers being flown over from Europe in chartered planes to work on farms due to concerns over labour shortages. NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw is quoted urging those interested in helping pick for Britain to contact one of the approved agricultural recruiters.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw was featured in a package on BBC Radio 4 Today covering reports of a chartered flight bringing workers from Eastern Europe to the UK to work on farms. He highlighted the NFU’s work in encouraging domestic workers to pick for Britain to ensure crops are being picked during peak season. Listen from around 2hrs 20mins.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw featured on a BBC News Special in a piece highlighting the importance of seasonal workers in keeping shelves stocked. He urged industry to unite to keep putting British fruit and veg on our plates.Tom Bradshaw talking about labour issues on BBC News_73081

Further coverage of  industry calls for a ‘land army’ to meet seasonal workers requirements was picked up by the Daily Express, and the Daily Telegraph which focussed on the teenagers usually sitting their exams who are now looking for work. 

The Financial Times, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and Daily Express have reported Britain could face food shortages if we do not get access to the pickers we need, with NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw urging the public to ‘do their bit’, stressing the opportunity for furloughed workers to get out on the fields from early May.

NFU Horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper was interviewed by BBC Newsnight (from 20 mins) highlighting that British workers will be very welcome on British fruit and veg farms to bring in this year’s harvest. Ali Capper on Newsnight April 2020_72935

The Mail on Sunday quoted NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw is quoted saying it is vital that Government takes the lead in putting in place a range of measures to co-ordinate and support the logistics involved in this campaign.

Asparagus grower and NFU member Matt Spanton was interviewed by Channel 4 News and told them about the challenges of recruiting a domestic workforce to pick and pack his asparagus and how workers were essential in order to keep shelves stocked.Matt Spanton on Channel 4 News discussing labour_72914

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw was interviewed for ITV News’ package around potential labour shortages, and said that a solution to the current uncertainty around seasonal work required innovation from the government.

Impact on potato growers

May 2020

The Telegraph reports the Birmingham initiative that seeks to rescue potatoes that were destined for pubs, restaurants and chip shops, and support the community. NFU potato forum member Robin Cropper is quoted explaining he had had 2,000 tonnes of potatoes when lockdown hit but almost overnight, the customer base disappeared and that some farms could be facing going out of business.

Robin was also interviewed live on talkRADIO where he emphasised the challenges for the sector with the overnight closure of the hospitality sector.

March 2020

NFU President Minette Batters was interviewed live on BBC5Live's Breakfast, as well as Sky News with Sophy Ridge, to emphasise a growing need for a government drive to encourage domestic workers to apply for seasonal work on farm.

NFU President Minette Batters was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s PM (from 10 mins), and explained that we now have an opportunity to produce more food domestically and that British workers could also be trained to carry out seasonal roles on farm.

BBC News reported that UK could face potential shortages of fruit and vegetable pickers this year. NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw is quoted saying it was vital that Defra got behind a UK recruitment campaign.

The Daily Telegraph and BBC News reported that university students are being urged to apply for fruit picking roles, quoting NFU President Minette Batters emphasising concerns due to while NFU horticulture board chairman Ali Capper saying the industry needs "as much help from society at this time".

The Times’ columnist Alice Thomson writes that farmers are going to be crucial in dealing with the challenges around coronavirus, quoting NFU President Minette Batters saying “we’ll need to train up our own workforce to make sure there is food on the shelves and repurpose all our produce for the shops.”

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw told BBC Farming Today's that the NFU was communicating with the government to incentivise domestic workers, included furloughed workers who may well be looking to top up wages, to come and pick fruit and vegetables. 

NFU calls for government action to save iconic dairy sector

May 2020

The Daily Telegraph and BBC News report the government’s announcement that it has launched a £1m drink milk campaign to aid dairy farmers during lockdown struggling with the loss of the out-of-home sector. The BBC quotes NFU President Minette Batters from the Efra Committee on Tuesday saying dairy farmers were in “absolute crisis”.

The Daily Mail reported that a collapse in milk prices means dairy farmers are getting just 15p a litre and cannot cover costs. NFU President Minette Batters is quoted highlighting the need for a hardship payment to support the hardest hit.

April 2020

On BBC Radio 4’s Today, Defra Secretary of State George Eustice responded to a message from NFU President Minette Batters in which she stressed the severe challenge the loss of the out-of-home sector has been for dairy farmers. Listen from 2hrs 10 mins.

NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes featured on BBC Countryfile, reiterating the NFU’s asks from government to support the dairy sector with a incentivised milk production scheme. NFU Cymru milk board chairman Abi Reader is also featured emphasising the lack of support for the sector. Watch from 25mins.

The Daily Mail covered the NFU’s asks to government for a fully-funded production reduction scheme in order to support the industry amidst falling demand, quoting the letter sent to Secretary of State George Eustice from the industry.

The Sun reported the industry's letter to government to call for urgent support to protect dairy farm businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Financial Times reports warnings from the NFU that a quarter of UK dairy farms have become financially unviable because of falls in milk price demand and prices. NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes is quoted welcoming the government’s decision to relax competition laws to support the sector but said much more is needed.

Sky News spoke to dairy Farmer Robin Bett in Kent about why he was forced to throw milk away after the processor failed to collect it, as well as NFU President Minette Batters who explained the NFU's call for support from the government.

In print, the NFU’s call to ministers to act to save the dairy industry was quoted in The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Mail. Meanwhile, Telegraph columnist William Sitwell urged the public to spend more on British produce to support our farmers over Easter, quoting NFU President Minette Batters’ describing problems in the dairy sector as ‘untenable’.

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme quoted NFU President Minette Batters’ call for an emergency meeting with Secretary of State George Eustice to discuss the crisis facing the dairy industry as a result of the slump for demand in milk.

BBC News and Daily Mail report that £220,000 of fresh milk is being thrown away each day due to supply chain issues. NFU Cymru milk board chairman Abi Reader is quoted in the Mail piece calling the situation unsustainable.

The Daily Mail, Sky News, and the Daily Express quoted NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes highlighting the NFU’s efforts to work with ministers and the supply chain on solutions after demand for milk from cafes and restaurants plummeted when the UK went into lockdown.

Dairy board chairman Michael Oakes was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up To Money (from 26mins) and set out the challenges facing dairy farmers as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on the food service sector and the closure of restaurants and cafes.


NFU urges retailers to build resilience amidst concerns over beef imports

April 2020

Deputy President Stuart Roberts was featured on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours discussing how changing consumer habits are affecting livestock farmers who are now faced with producing less than their cost of production and why retailers must be promoting a range of products to push demand.

Metro and MailOnline quoted NFU chief livestock adviser John Royle stressing that British farmers are prepared to meet demand and urges retailers and processors to build resilience now to manage future disruption.

Meanwhile, NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay is quoted in the Daily Star and Daily Mail responding to plans to reduce the meat content of meals served at schools, universities and in hospitals. He said if public sector caterers wanted to do their bit for the environment, they should be supporting British farms.

NFU expresses concerns over new policing guidelines to encourage people to stay home

May 2020

The Independent ran a feature on the divide between rural and urban areas and how coronavirus is exacerbating this, mentioning NFU concerns over anxieties within rural communities over countryside access. 

April 2020 

NFU concerns, along with the Rural Crime Network, Countryside Alliance and the Country Land and Business Association, that new guidance may cause people to carry out needless long journeys to exercise in rural areas is picked up by Press Association and covered by BBC News.

Impact of coronavirus on supply chains

May 2020

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts was interviewed by LBC’s Iain Dale on how the farming sectors are being hit by covid-19, stressing the loss of the hospitality sector impacting dairy, changes in eating patterns impacting livestock farmers, and lockdown restrictions on fruit farms.

March 2020

NFU director EU exit and international trade Nick von Westenholz described the challenges facing the industry and the work being done to redirect products out of the hospitality and out-of-home sectors and into retail to BBC5Live's Emma Barnett.

The Daily Express ran a report based on Nick von Westenholz’s 5Live interview, and the need for the government to help drive recruitment for seasonal work domestically. 

NFU President Minette Batters was live on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (listen from 2hrs 45mins) covering the impact of coronavirus on farm, emphasising that farmers will continue to do all they can to up production and keep shelves stocked.

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