To field! France calls coronavirus unemployed to work in agriculture

The sector needs to fill 200.000 temporary positions and the Government is committed to facilitating hiring.

The coronavirus epidemic has come at a critical time for the countryside in much of Europe, which is beginning to have its first harvests of the year ready. Agriculture is one of the basic pillars to ensure the proper functioning of the distribution chain that ensures citizen nutrition at a time when the population remains confined to their homes. But for the same reason, the field has been emptied. In France alone, one of Europe's granaries, in the coming months the agricultural sector estimates 200.000 positions to be filled for the harvest of the first crops. With the borders closed, the foreign seasonal workers who usually arrive at this time in the Gallic fields cannot enter. To alleviate this lack and, at the same time, offer a way out for those who have been left without work due to the epidemic, the French Government has teamed up with agricultural unions to facilitate agricultural hiring.

"I want to launch a great appeal to women and men who are not working today, those and those who are confined to their homes: waiters, hotel receptionists, hairdressers (...) I say to them: Join the great army of the French agriculture! ”proclaimed Tuesday the Minister of Agriculture, Didier Guillaume. Almost at the same time, his economics partner, Bruno Le Maire, revealed that only in this first week of confinement, the number of French people who have taken temporary unemployment due to coronaviruses reached 730.000. And as the National Statistics Institute (INSEE) announced on Thursday, the loss of economic activity in France is already around 35% compared to what would be normal.

The French countryside is one of those sectors that should be in full swing at the moment. However, at many points the images of desolate crops that a farmer showed this Wednesday on a television network are repeated. “If we don't have staff tomorrow, we won't collect. It is going to be very problematic for our farms in the coming months, ”warned asparagus producer Jean-Baptiste Prevost. “We are short of hands,” says Christiane Lambert, president of FNSEA, the main agricultural union in France. In March alone, 45.000 seasonal workers from Poland, Romania or Morocco should have entered the country. 75.000 will be needed in April and as many in May. There is also a lack of labor in the agri-food industry, such as in slaughterhouses or cheese factories, the sector warns.

The FNSEA has already launched a platform to recruit farm workers. On the "arms for your plate" website, farmers in need of labor can register, as well as available workers. "It is a kind of Blablacar of agriculture," said Lambert, who guarantees that anyone who dares to work in the fields will be able to do so in "perfect safety conditions." The Ministry of Labor will present for its part this Thursday or Friday at the latest another complementary platform that "will group all the offers available to the companies concerned" and that will also allow the unemployment office "to propose to each employer, if it wishes , assume the preselection of the candidates ”. According to the Minister of Agriculture, there are already 40.000 interested parties.

In addition, the Government has guaranteed that not only those who have been left without work due to the closure of their activity during the epidemic, but also some of those who benefit from the help of 1.500 euros that the Government has guaranteed, will be able to join this initiative. to the self-employed and to workers in small companies with a sharp drop in activity, who will be able to combine this contribution with "short contracts in agricultural and agri-food companies".

El País

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