More than 200,000 people sign up to help French farmers with harvest

More than 200,000 people sign up to help French farmers with harvest
Photo: AFP
More than 200,000 people have answered France's call for temporarily workers to help crop and livestock farmers desperate for extra hands as summer approaches, Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said on Tuesday.

“Today we have more than 200,000 applicants, and we have 5,000 recruiters who are organising the work,” Guillaume told France 2 television.

“We're not going to make these people cross the country, they're going to work near their homes, near farmers, but also in food industry, transport and logistics,” he said.

“It's very important to make sure these products get to where they can be sold.”

Guillaume issued his appeal last month for a “great agricultural army” amid the coronavirus lockdown that has seen layoffs of tens of thousands of people, as well as border closures that are depriving farmers of their usual contingents of migrant seasonal labourers.

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The need for able bodies is urgent as harvests loom for asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes and other early season produce, and the livestock breeding begins in earnest.

The nationwide stay-at-home orders have also meant growing stockpiles of perishable goods for many producers as restaurants, school cafeterias and other major clients stay shut.

Guillaume said it was urgent to keep France's food distribution channels running smoothly, warning that in case of breakdowns “there would not be enough for our citizens to eat.”

He also urged people to eat locally.

“If you can't get to the countryside, the countryside will come to you – buy fresh products, fruits and vegetables,” he said. “Buy fish, buy seafood!”

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