MORRISONS HAS launched a £2m apprenticeship fund to encourage fresh talent into the farming sector.

It said this was part of a move to address the rising average age of farming in the UK – with only 3% below the age of 35 – by training up new young future farmers.

The agricultural industry is facing a recruitment challenge, with fewer farmers’ children wanting to come into the family business and some 15% of farmers named succession and inheritance as the largest issues threatening family-run farms today.

The supermarket's programme will look to equip would-be farmers with the broad skills needed to produce food for the nation and also to develop an understanding and relationship with retailers like Morrisons.

Apprenticeships can look forward to receiving broad-based agricultural skills training from a recognised training provider, as well as mentoring and support from key members of Morrisons’ team. Apprentices will be matched with local stores in order to learn what customers want and how stores work. They will also develop a strong understanding of customer attitudes to British sourcing, farming and animal welfare.

Morrisons' chief executive, David Potts, said: “We are British farming’s single largest customer and so it makes sense to invest our apprenticeship fund so that more new farmers can be trained to provide food for the nation. We hope that people from all backgrounds will be attracted to these important jobs.”

President of NFU England and Wales, Minette Batters, welcomed the announcement: “Improving skills is a key part to unlocking productivity gains on farm and vital in addressing the future challenges and pressures that farming faces. Training and skills development also ensures there is a professional, flexible and reliable workforce as well as helping to attract new entrants to the industry."