Environment secretary George Eustice said it was “clear” that more British people would need to help with the harvest, as most of the people from eastern Europe who usually travel to the UK in summer to pick crops are stuck in their own countries due to the coronavirus.
Britain’s farmers have warned that a lot of food could go to waste due to the labour shortage if more workers aren’t found to fill the shortfall.
The Government has launched a new service, Pick for Britain, to bring food producers and would-be workers together.
It’s Pick for Britain website had crashed after Mr Eustice made his comments.
Mr Eustice said: “Every year large numbers of people come from countries such as Romania or Bulgaria to take part in the harvest, harvesting crops such as strawberries and salads and vegetable.
“We estimate that probably only about a third of the people that would normally come are already here, and small numbers may continue to travel.
“But one thing is clear and that is that this year we will need to rely on British workers to lend a hand to help bring that harvest home.”
Many people have lost work or been furloughed after many businesses were forced to close their doors temporarily in the coronavirus lockdown.
And Mr Eustice added that furloughed workers “may be getting to the point that they want to lend a hand and play their part, they may be wanting to get out and they may be wanting to supplement their income”.
The Environment Secretary’s comments come after Prince Charles released a video message on Tuesday urging Brits to take part in the harvest, and compared new farm workers to the volunteers who helped pick crops in the Second World War.
The Prince of Wales said: “Food does not happen by magic, it all begins with our remarkable farmers and growers.
“If the last few weeks have proved anything, it is that food is precious and valued, and it cannot be taken for granted.
“This is why that great movement of the Second World War – the Land Army – is being rediscovered in the newly created ‘Pick For Britain’ campaign.
“In the coming months, many thousands of people will be needed to bring in the crops. It will be hard graft but is hugely important if we are to avoid the growing crops going to waste.”