Coronavirus: Furloughed staff replace overseas farm workers

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image captionPauline Hill said she hoped to return to her job, but was looking forward to a summer outside

A scaffolder and an events manager are among those currently out-of-work who are starting new jobs at a Herefordshire farm following a shortage of overseas employees.

They started work at Penrhos Farm near Kington after their jobs were affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

It follows a decrease in the number of Eastern Europeans working on farms.

Pauline Hill, events manager Cider Barn restaurant said she was looking forward to a summer outside.

The UK faces a shortage of fruit and vegetable pickers because of travel restrictions on overseas workers.

People furloughed from their jobs can work for a new employer, provided they are not breaching any existing contracts or the coronavirus restrictions.

image captionThe farm has over 15,000 cherry trees that need looking after

Richard Williams, from Penrhos Farm, said he was "surprised" at the response he has had with his recruitment efforts.

He and business partner Charlie Turner needed about 45 people to help them out this year.

"About a month ago we had about 15 (workers). Mainly they would have been Eastern Europeans," he said.

"But they've struggled to get into the country for various reasons so we put an advert out."

He said some players from local rugby union side Luctonians came for work initially, as well as students, and then a scaffolder from Leominster.

The farm was then contacted by two marquee erecters and other staff from the Cider Barn restaurant in Pembridge.

Mr Williams added: "We're absolutely really surprised and we're still having people ringing us on a daily basis looking for work.

"When they have come here, they've all been really adaptable and want to get stuck in."

image captionRichard Williams said he was getting calls about work on a daily basis

Ms Hill said she was adjusting to her new job of tending to and pruning cherry trees and putting up rabbit guards.

"It's a bit sad for the whole restaurant situation," she added.

"Also we had a few weddings booked so I feel sorry for [the] bride and groom trying to reorganise things for next year."

Mr Williams said the new workers have also been planting strawberries and pruning blueberries as well as looking after the farm's 15,000 cherry trees.

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