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EXCLUSIVE: Fruit farms inundated by thousands of local job hunters

Friday 22nd May 2020

LOCAL fruit farms have been swamped with THOUSANDS of local applications for summer picking jobs, Daily Downs Mail can reveal.

One farm said that it had received 6,000 applicants for just 700 jobs.

Maidstone residents have been complaining online that submissions to farms across the borough have gone unanswered.

The government, aware that the industry needs some 70,000 casual labouring posts, and recently launched the Pick For Britain campaign.

And rather than rely of eastern European pickers this season, the farmers have received far more expressions of interest in work than they have jobs to give out.

Managers at top grower Clock House Farm say they have been “extremely busy” replying to local residents since it launched an urgent appeal for more workers due to coronavirus.

Jane Peckham, recruiter for Clock House Farm, Coxheath, said: "We have received more than 6,000 applications so I have been extremely busy and trying my best to get back to everyone.

"I can hand on heart say I have worked my way through 95% of them, so I can only apologise for the 5% who may have slipped through the net.

"I can understand it is frustrating for people who are listening to Boris Johnson and want to do their bit, but we also have to take into account experience and if they are local.

"We did a big social media campaign asking for applications and we are still desperate, but we are desperate for 700 pickers, not 6,000. We have been amazed by the response and we would like to truly thank everyone who has applied and all I can say is I'm very sorry if you have not had a response from us."

Maidstone residents say they feel they have been ignored and turned down by local farms, despite pleas from the government that 70,000 fruit pickers were needed this summer.

Leeds resident Caroline Sharp told Daily Downs Mail: "I rang Chambers and they have said they are waiting to see what crops they get this year and how many pickers they will need. I think by now they know how many they need, they do this every season surely.

“My son approached a few local farms and they all said no. It’s just disappointing because we live right on the doorstep of so many big farms and these kids have been in isolation for months. I think it’s just a massive missed opportunity.”

A spokesman at Chambers said: "We have had a lot of applications, and the people who have been shortlisted have been contacted. I do not think I should give any more information."