The lack of manpower for the next agricultural season is posing a great challenge for all European countries given the impossibility of having foreign temporary workers due to the limitations in mobility and confinement measures implemented in the different countries to stop the expansion of COVID-19.
As a result, different governments are encouraging workers who have become unemployed in this period to work in agricultural work, just like the Minister of Agriculture of France, Didier Guillaume, did on Tuesday of last week. Guillaume expressly called on waiters, hairdressers, hotel receptionists, and other professions who cannot continue their activity electronically. The minister spared no rhetoric and spoke of a "grande armée (the Napoleonic army) of French agriculture" to fill 200,000 vacant posts in the sector. Guillaume insisted on the "need for national solidarity so that we can eat."
Through the “Arms for your plate” campaign in France, they have already obtained 130,000 candidates to work in the fields. The recruitment campaign website is clear. They don't have many requirements. You don't need a master's degree, it states. Your arms are enough. The only requirements are having good health, not belonging to a vulnerable group, and respecting the safety standards imposed because of the pandemic.
In France, seasonal workers mainly come from Eastern European countries - especially Poland and Romania - and the Maghreb. There is no express prohibition for them to enter the country, but they face many more difficulties to do so, including transportation, the fear of being confined for a long time in France, and not being able to return to their country.
Asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, and radishes can't wait. According to Luc Smessaert, the vice president of the main agricultural union in France, the FNSEA, the arrival of these makeshift seasonal workers should help the sector avoid the immoral waste that comes with losing crops. He also said this experience would have an added sociological advantage: "We find it interesting that we can reconnect the people of the cities with the people of the country."