To Field! France calls coronavirus unemployed to work in agriculture

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 guarantee the proper functioning of the distribution chain that ensures citizen food at a time when the population remains confined to their homes. But for the same reason, the field has been emptied. Only in France, one of the granaries in Europe, in the coming months the agricultural sector estimates 200,000 jobs to fill for the harvest of the first crops. With the borders closed, the foreign temporary workers who usually arrive on these dates in the Gallic fields cannot enter. To alleviate this deficiency and, at the same time, offer a way out for those who have lost their jobs due to the epidemic, the French government has joined forces with agricultural unions to facilitate agricultural contracting.

“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 right now. However, in many places the images of desolate crops that a farmer showed on Wednesday on a television channel are repeated. “If we do not have staff tomorrow, we will not collect. It will 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 temporary workers from Poland, Romania or Morocco should have entered the country. 75,000 will be needed in April and the same number 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 can available workers. “It is a kind of Blablacar of agriculture,” said Lambert, who guarantees that everyone who is encouraged to work in the field will be able to do so in “perfect security conditions.” The Ministry of Labor will present for its part this Thursday or Friday at the latest another complementary platform that “will bring together all the offers available for the companies concerned” and that will also allow the unemployment office to “propose to each employer, if they wish , assume the preselection of the candidates ”. According to the Minister of Agriculture, there are already 40,000 interested.

In addition, the Government has guaranteed that this initiative will be joined not only by those who have lost their jobs due to the closure of their activity during the epidemic, but also by some of those who benefit from the aid of 1,500 euros that the Government has guaranteed. self-employed and workers in small companies with a sharp drop in activity, who may combine this contribution with “short contracts in agricultural and agri-food companies”.



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