BLAENAU Gwent MP has challenged the Government’s environment department to give assurances that there will not be crops ‘rotting in the fields’ due to a lack of seasonal harvest workers.
Mr Smith spoke during a Public Accounts Committee meeting to express his concerns that the Government’s ‘Pick for Britain’ campaign was withering on the vine.
During the meeting Mr Smith asked Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) permanent secretary Tamara Finkelstein for her assessment of how successful the Pick For Britain campaign has been and whether the Government was going to meet the numbers of people needed to cover the amount of picking required.
Ms Finkelstein responded that there has been a lot of interest through the campaign website.
She added: “Right now, we have the number that is needed. Whether there will be enough for the whole season, it is hard to know and track. There are big challenges.”
Mr Smith has since been sent information from Ms Finkelstein which states that “[Defra] are monitoring labour supply via industry surveys and we continue to work with them to understand the national picture. Current reports indicate that labour demands were met in May, but we expect demand to increase as the harvest season progresses over the summer.”
Mr Smith said: “The coronavirus outbreak has meant that fewer migrant workers are able to travel here to help pick crops.
“The departmental response concerns me. I worry that there could be crops rotting in the fields unless the Government gives the Pick for Britain campaign a shot in the arm.
“It is vital the Government gets its act together to make sure there are people ready to pick our crops and feed our country.”