France appeals for workers laid off during lockdown to help farmers with harvest

French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume has appealed for people laid off amid the coronavirus lockdown to help beleaguered crop and livestock farmers who are in need of labourers as summer approaches.

France appeals for workers laid off during lockdown to help farmers with harvest
The asparagus is ready for picking. Photo: AFP

“There are 200,000 jobs possible across the agriculture sector today,” in large part because seasonal workers who usually come from Spain or Eastern Europe can no longer enter the country, Guillaume told BFM television on Tuesday.

READ ALSO These are the rules of lockdown in France

Farmers say the need for able bodies is urgent as the first harvests loom for asparagus, strawberries and other early-season produce.

“I'm issuing a call to the women and men who are not working, who are confined to their homes, the waiter, the hotel receptionist, the barber in my neighbourhood, whose businesses are closed… and I ask them to join France's great agricultural army,” he said.

He said they would have proper full-time contracts, though it was unclear how people would be able to find the available jobs and eventually receive authorisation to travel – state unemployment offices have halted walk-in appointments during the lockdown.

“We'll see how we'll be able to make things work,” Guillaume said.

Restaurants, hotels and retailers across the country have shut down, hammering the French economy just as the crucial summer tourism season begins.

The country's tourism sector could lose up to €40 billion if the crisis lasts three months, junior foreign minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told Sud Radio on Tuesday.

Last year, foreign visitors spent €58 billion in the country, while French vacationers added an additional €110 billion.

Lemoyne had warned earlier this month that around €10 billion of tourist spending would evaporate in the first four months of this year, which began amid a crippling transport strike by rail workers protesting a pensions overhaul.

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French supermarket to increase discount operations in push against inflation

French supermarket giant Carrefour announced plans Tuesday to expand its discount operations and own brand products as it continues to cut costs amid spiralling inflation.

French supermarket to increase discount operations in push against inflation

The move comes as part of plans to slash costs by €4 billion through to 2026 under a strategy which also sees a still unknown
number of job cuts.

“We are speeding up our transformation to consolidate our model of sustainable growth,” said chairman Alexandre Bompard in a statement, as the group also looks to expand its presence in e-commerce.

As it bears down on costs amid a cost-of-living crisis, Carrefour aims to lift own brand foodstuff sales to 40 percent of total sales from a current 33 percent.

Bompard, at the helm since 2017, is also set to launch in France the group’s Brazilian discount chain Atacadao from the third quarter of next year, as well as further develop another low-cost brand Supeco, notably lifting its presence from 120 stores in Spain to 200 by 2026.

Supeco began operations in Senegal in 2019 and has since spread its wings to Ivory Coast and Morocco while also launching operations in Spain, Italy, Poland and Romania as well as Brazil.

Carrefour says it is stepping up commitment to local partner producers from a current 39,000 to 50,000 over the coming three years.

It will further expand its Potager City brand, which distributes online subscription-based extra-fresh and seasonal fruit.

The group sees itself as at the forefront of increasing locally-produced food transition to within 50 kilometres (just over 30 miles) of sale points.

Shares in Carrefour were down 1.8 percent at 16.26 euros in mid-morning trading in Paris, compared with a year high reached in May of 21.03 euros.

The group employs some 320,000 people in around 30 countries.