Spain will make it easier for migrants and the unemployed to find work in agriculture. This marks the latest move in the country’s efforts to tackle a shortfall of farm workers due to the coronavirus.
The Spanish government said it will authorize the temporary hiring of tens of thousands of immigrants or jobless people to address the present lack of labor in agriculture.
In a bid to unblock bottlenecks in the production chain and prevent the prospect food shortages, the government said it would allow farms to take on between 75,000-80,000 people. The new measures will be in force until June 30, 2020, the government said.
Many of the additional workers would normally be barred from working as they receive state benefits.
Under the new measure, unemployed will be allowed to keep their unemployment benefits while they temporarily join the agricultural sector. Foreigners must be legal residents in Spain in order to be hired. Work permits that expire before June 30 "will be renewed", said
Minister of Agriculture Luis Planas.
Temporary measures to boost agriculture
The initiative is particularly important for the regions of Andalusia, Murcia, Extremadura, Aragon and Catalonia, where most of Spain’s agricultural activities take place.
Spain has suffered particularly hard under the ongoing health crisis, having the second highest death toll in the world from the COVID-19 disease to date.
Planas said that the show of support for Spain’s agricultural sector was not just intended to strengthen the local market but to guarantee exports to other EU nations as well:
"Two-thirds of our production goes to EU markets. Freight traffic continues to circulate smoothly and we have to provide for these markets because they are a very important source of income," he said during a virtual press briefing, adding that if farmers failed to carry out harvests, food prices would rise due to significant shortages.
Planas further stressed that the availability of agricultural workers had been "clearly restricted" due to curbs on movement to contain the spread of coronavirus. Border restrictions and lockdowns across the EU have forced many foreign workers to stay at home during the peak food-harvesting season, including seasonal workers from EU countries like Bulgaria and Romania as well as those coming to Spain from Morocco.
with Reuters, AFP