Germany will allow foreign workers to enter the country to help harvest fruits and vegetables from farms, the government said on Thursday, easing travel restrictions previously imposed on the coronavirus pandemic.
European Union countries, including Germany, have implemented border controls to stem the spread of the virus, but with the side effect of preventing border workers from going to work.
German farmers and vegetable processors have warned that such restrictions would prevent thousands of seasonal agricultural assistants from Eastern Europe from harvesting and planting on German farms, which could lead to reduced harvests of fruits and vegetables and higher prices.
Most agricultural workers come from eastern EU countries, including Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
The Commission of the European Union also urged EU countries on Monday to allow the hundreds of thousands of seasonal migrant workers who plant or harvest crops to cross borders despite national measures to contain the coronavirus.
The German Agriculture Ministry said Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the German Interior Ministry to allow up to 40,000 seasonal agricultural workers in the country in April and another 40,000 in May.
Workers should travel by plane rather than bus to protect themselves from the threat of the coronavirus, said the agriculture ministry.
A series of other conditions include the fact that seasonal workers undergo a medical examination and keep their distance from each other while they work, while their accommodation should only contain half the normal number of people.
In addition, the two ministries said they would seek to attract an additional 10,000 people to Germany to work on farms, including the unemployed, students, asylum seekers and temporarily laid-off workers.
“Today we have found a pragmatic and goal-oriented solution that meets two justified requirements,” said German Minister of Agriculture Julia Kloeckner. “Protection against infection on one side and securing the crop on the other side.”
German farmers were particularly concerned about the lack of workers for the asparagus harvest which begins in the coming weeks.
Reuters News Agency