Germany to let in foreign farm workers after alarm over coronavirus border closures

Germany to let in foreign farm workers after alarm over coronavirus border closures
A harvest worker helps pick strawberries in Groppendorf, Saxony-Anhalt, in May 2019. Photo: DPA
The German government reached an agreement Thursday to allow urgently needed foreign seasonal workers to enter the country to help with fruit and vegetable harvests, after borders slammed shut to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 40,000 foreign workers will be allowed to come and work in Germany in April and May, agriculture minister Julia Klöckner said in Berlin, calling the move “important and good news for our farmers”.

Farmers across Germany had been sounding the alarm after the government last week barred entry to seasonal workers from abroad as part of measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

READ ALSO: Germany bans foreign farm workers over coronavirus

 

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Around 300,000 seasonal workers come to Germany each year, mainly from Poland and Romania, to help with harvesting crops such as asparagus and strawberries.

Both are beloved crops in Germany. During Spargelzeit (asparagus season), the crop typically appears en masse at supermarkets and weekly markets, and has restaurant menus devoted to it.

Around the same time, strawberry trucks and kiosks show up even in the middle of Germany's cities to sell the sweet crop. 

A seasonal worker helps with the asparagus harvest in Weiterstadt, Hesse on March 20th, 2019. Photo: DPA

Under the new deal, workers will have to travel by plane and employers will be required to carry out health checks when they arrive.

New arrivals will also have to live and work separately from other workers for 14 days and will not be permitted to leave the company premises.

Social distancing will be maintained during the work, and where this is not possible masks and gloves must be worn.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the government had found “a way to reconcile the health protection of the population and the securing of harvests”.

The government has also announced measures to ease red tape around the hiring of new workers in the sector, and to allow workers that are available to work for longer.

READ ALSO: Spargelzeit: German farmers raise alarm as coronavirus border closures impact seasonal workers


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