Wanted: Foreigners and unemployed to work on Spain’s farms and boost agriculture during coronavirus crisis

Wanted: Foreigners and unemployed to work on Spain's farms and boost agriculture during coronavirus crisis
Strawberries need harvesting in Huelva. Photo: AFP
The Spanish government said Tuesday it will make it easier for migrants and the unemployed to work in agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic.

The availability of such workers had been “clearly restricted” due to curbs on movement to contain the spread of the virus, said the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas.

But if farmers failed to carry out harvests coming due, prices would rise due to shortages of produce, he warned.

Two-thirds of Spain's production goes to European markets, he said, calling agricultural exports “a very important source of income”.   

Spain traditionally uses thousands of seasonal workers from abroad to pick stone fruits.

Many harvesting seasons start in the coming weeks.    

The production of strawberries in the province of Huelva represents 90 per cent of the European market at this time of year.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's government has approved a decree to guarantee until June 30th the workforce needed for food production, estimated to be “between 75,000 and 80,000 workers”, Planas said.   

It will allow the hiring of both the jobless, who will be allowed to keep their unemployment benefits, and foreigners who are “legal residents in Spain”, said Planas.

If their work permits expire before June 30th “they will be renewed”, he added.   

The policy also targets “young foreigners between 18 and 21 years old, for whom a work permit can be provided so they can perform these tasks”, he said.


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