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Filipino farm workers hired as farmers struggle to find qualified staff | Immigration Matters

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The Times reports on Filipino farm workers Rey Gavila and Lito Gonzales who, for 11 months of the year, work 6,500 miles away from home.

Milking dairy cows in the South of England is giving them a salary not too far behind that of their President back home in the Philippines, and five times more than a teacher there.

William Hickson, their boss, who farms 1,600 acres (650 hectares) near Deal on the Kent coast, is delighted with his team: “People are saying immigration is an election issue, and it may be for some people, but I can say that without them we’d be lost.”

The Filipinos earn enough for each to send home £700 a month — worth about 48,000 pesos in the Philippines, where the President earns about 57,000 pesos and a teacher 9,000.

The men are clearly pleased with their lot and proudly show off their living quarters. Each has a mobile home with kitchen and shower, TV and use of a laptop — where most days they can speak to their wives and children using the internet. They are among a vanguard of 60 Filipinos who have been recruited and given visas to fill vacancies on farms throughout the country.

British workers have long turned up their noses at the toil and low status of picking fruit, vegetables or flowers.

Now it seems that disenchantment with the land is deterring many from skilled farm jobs. Employers report that almost a third of vacancies are hard to fill, from vets to crop managers, soil scientists, plant breeders, food technologists, growers, stockmen and tractor drivers. Mr Hickson has even had trouble finding a school-leaver to train as an apprentice. Many are interested in learning to drive combine harvesters and tractors, but few are keen on looking after his pedigree Jersey cattle.

Research by Lantra, a skills council for environmental and land-based industries, has forecast that 60,000 new entrants are needed in agriculture in the next decade to maintain food supplies. The urgency is underlined by UN forecasts that food production must rise by at least 50 per cent by 2050 to keep pace with global population growth.

The UK industry no longer relies on casual labourers with a fork to spread muck. Today they need to work with precision machinery and computers, identify diseases in plants and animals and know how to treat them.

They must understand how to look after the land in the greenest way, cope with the red tape for cash handouts, keep meticulous records on animal movements and ensure livestock can be tracked from farm to plate. More than 50 per cent of farm jobs require at least two years training, but farmers such as Mr Hickson have no idea where to find these young people.

“It is not that we haven’t tried … finding locals. Young lads are difficult, and want to go on the beer all night with their mates, but we have to be up to start milking at 5.30am… For us, reliability is better than ability. We can train them to be able, but they have to come with the right frame of mind.”

A chance meeting with Chris Blakeney, managing director of Marden Management, an agricultural management company, persuaded him to hire the Filipinos. Marden was forced to widen the search for qualified workers after advertisements in Jobcentres nationwide for posts with salaries of up to £40,000 failed to attract staff.

On the farm, Mr Gavila, 48, arrived three years ago, and was joined by Mr Gonzales, 34, last year. Both speak good English, are qualified in animal science. They talk to the cattle in Filipino but whistle to round them up for milking.

Source: The Times

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8 Responses to “Filipino farm workers hired as farmers struggle to find qualified staff”
Read them below or add one

  1. jonathan b. bangui says :

    Sept 28, 2011.
    Greetings in the name of the Lord.
    I am Jonathan B. Bangui, Filipino, and of legal age. I am a graduate of Law but my passion and interest is on farming. Our family has a small farm in the province where I spent time and practically acquired my knowledge and skills in animal farming. I have the experience and stil willing to learn more. I’ve been searching for farm owner/company who are willing and able to sponsor/hire me as farm worker.God bless us all.

  2. Dear Sir/Madam;

    Good adr Sir/Madam I am michael M. Bacong, filipino citizen and with 8years experience in farming in the philippines, Marketing management graduate and tack and field varsity player.

    I’ve been searching for a farm owner/company who are willing to sponsor me.

  3. jay santos imperial says :

    DEAR SIR/MADAM……….I AM JAY SANTOS IMPERIAL ANIMAL SCIENCE GRADUATE FROM DE LA SALLE ARANETA UNIVERSITY.CURRENTLY WORKING AT BOUNTY FRESH FOODS INC. AS HATCHERY/POULTRY SUPERVISOR…….. I AM 37 YEARS OLD TRAINED IN UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES LOS BANOS LAGUNA IN DAIRY FARMING OPERATION 2010 AND SLAUGHTERING OPERATION NATIONAL CERTIFICATE 2 (TESDA) 2009……..TO ALL EMPLOYERS IN DAIRY / BROILER POULTRY OPERATION AND HATCHERY/ SLAUGHTERING / BUTCHER….WHO NEEDS MY SKILLS AND PASSION IN WORK , I AM WILLING TO WORK IN YOUR OPERATION……….I HAVE ENOUGH EXPERIENCE AND I AM WILLING TO LEARN MORE…….AND TO SHARE MY KNOWLEDGE TO OTHERS……..looking forward to see you godbless.

  4. Alvin Mamitag says :

    I am a filipino with 2 years farming experience in hawaii, I’ve been searching for a farm owner who are willing willing to sponsor me. Anybody could help me?

  5. cherryll says :

    i suggest you look for 2 filipinos on facebook, who got hired by mr. hickson, then ask them how you could get in touch with their boss.

  6. I’m a Filipino, graduate of Animal Science from the University of the Philippines. I’ve been looking for a dairy farm jobs abroad but no idea how to have contact with the employers. If anyone could help me contact Mr. William Hickson, I would truly appreciate it. thank you very much.

  7. marie soriano says :

    hi,im gland to hear that filipino farm workers are already have visa to work here in uk.Im interested to help my brother to work also in the farm or maybe tractor drivir.is there anymore,or any recruitment agency in manila philippines where they can apply for it?please let me know

  8. Edison Galanza says :

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I read the information that you need a staff in the farmers in UK. I am interested to apply and work. Please help me how to apply. I’m 36 years old If you want to send my CV. just tell me in I send it to you as soon as possible.
    Thank You and God Bless!

    Respectfully Yours,
    Edison B. Galanza

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