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UK food firm charters plane to fly in Romanians to help with harvest

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UK food firm charters plane to fly in Romanians to help with harvest
Copyright  AP Photo/Peter Dejong
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A food producer has chartered a flight to fly 150 Romanians into the UK on Thursday to help pick fruit and vegetables.

Farmers across Europe have complained of having to either throw away their harvests or leave it to rot in the field because of the coronavirus lockdowns.

Confinement has meant losing their normal clients, like restaurants who have closed down, or not having seasonal workers to harvest their crops.

Air Charter Services told Euronews on Thursday that it has flown 2,000 eastern European harvesters across Europe since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

One of the latest will arrive at Stansted Airport, near London, around 5 pm local time on Thursday with scores of Romanians onboard.

"There will be health checks at both ends and the middle seat of the middle row will be kept empty to ensure a form of social distancing," it said

Thirteen of the 14 flights it has operated have flown into Germany.

A further five or six more charter flights to the UK are currently being discussed, Air Charter Services added.

The company confirmed that G's Fresh had chartered the Stansted flight but declined to divulge who it was in discussion with for the other flights and who was behind the German charters.

"G's Fresh" is one of the largest fresh food producers in the UK with farms across Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. On its website, it states that they employ around 2,500 seasonal workers during the busy period from April to November.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) raised the alarm over the impact COVID-19 could have on food security in mid-March warning of disruptions to the supply chain the longer the pandemic lasts.

The British and French ministries of agriculture have both called on furloughed people to work the fields.

Concordia, a UK charity placing volunteers in work placements, has launched a Feed The Nation initiative to mitigate the labour shortage faced by UK farms. It said on Tuesday that it has received thousands of applications for the minimum-wage roles.