(MENAFN – Swissinfo) Swiss farmers must improvise to find enough workers during the coronavirus pandemic to help harvest, and – as the example illustrates – are looking for creative solutions to get their products to market.
Asparagus shoots are still covered in land on the farmland of Jucker in Rafz, a small town northwest of the city of Zurich. Vegetable shoots are waiting for migrant workers to harvest them, but this year many of the foreign workers may not come.
“Many of them are still in their countries, waiting for the borders to reopen,” said Nadine Gloor, head of marketing for agriculture, which employs 150 people, both for planting and harvesting asparagus and pumpkin, on new farmland. produce shop, or in two restaurants on the spot.
Swiss agriculture relies on foreign workers, who mostly come from eastern Europe and Portugal. According to statistics from the Federal Office for Migration, the agriculture and forestry sector employed more than 18,000 seasonal workers from abroad last year.
Usually, this spring, 80 people from Poland and Romania are already in the fields picking asparagus and strawberries on Jucker’s farm.
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However, the coronavirus crisis made very close borders in Europe, including between Switzerland and its neighbors, making it impossible to travel from eastern or southern Europe to mountainous countries. Even if they can leave home, many foreigners such as migrant workers from Portugal will be faced with having to isolate themselves after they return. The rule has been in force in Portugal since March 20.
However, Jucker’s operations have been fortunate since then, said Gloor, some workers were already in Switzerland when the borders were closed, and many Swiss citizens responded to job advertisements placed on external link websites, or websites specifically created by Swiss fruit and vegetable producers. agricultural workers, working with online recruitment agencies, Coopleexternal link. Usually active in matching job seekers who are looking for flexible working hours or temporary jobs in the fields of cooking, aviation or event management, or other sectors of the economy that are mostly closed, Coople now appoints people in search of work towards agriculture.
According to official data, the locking up of the health crisis has caused a surge in unemployment and so-called short-term employment. A quarter of all Swiss workers have been affected.
However, agricultural work is not attractive because it is manual work and requires long working hours (55 per week) for low wages (CHF14.50 per hour). “It needs to be done in the sun and rain, in all weather,” said Gloor. “Field workers must also have the skills to know how to plant asparagus without destroying it, so we cannot take everyone who registers.”
The agricultural sector hopes the federal government will help make work more attractive.
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‘We hope the federal government takes the steps necessary to subsidize agricultural wages according to market conditions in this extraordinary situation. This will allow 315,000 people currently affected by short jobs to benefit, ‘said Viktor Calabrò, president of Coople, in a trade magazine on March 25.
Specific health measures, including social exclusion and regular hand washing, are also applied in Swiss agriculture as in other industries where employees still have to work on site.
“If locking continues for longer, farmers must find a different approach to managing the harvest,” said Loïc Bardet, head of Agora, a French-speaking farmer association in Switzerland. Bardet made comments ahead of the Swiss government’s decision on April 8 to extend the lockdown at least until April 26.
But federal authorities do not see a risk to the country’s food supply. “I don’t believe there will be a shortage of seasonal agricultural workers. It’s still too early to say how the situation will develop, ‘replied Florie Marion, a spokesman for the Federal Office for Agriculture, pointing out that the government has launched several measures to help the economy, including the agricultural sector. Among them, temporary work visas can now be granted for six months, up from the previous three.
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“During these days of isolation and meditation, to get news from loved ones is inspiration,” said Marcos Inhauser. He and his wife, Suely, are leaders in Igreja da Irmandade-Brasil (Church of the Leaders in Brazil). “As you know, we are in the mood like you are in the United States. Social isolation, following statistics about infected people, the number of deaths every day, taking care of necessary procedures, etc.
“In Brazil, churches are not permitted to have worship services. Some of them have virtual worship services that bring to the Internet what they usually do: a group of people playing and singing and preaching.
“The characteristics of Irmandade in Brazil do not allow us to do it. We have emphasized the interpretation of the Bible according to communitarians, where all participants must bring their interpretations. That fits the priestly idea of all believers. All church gifts have the opportunity to build the whole body. That is not only the pastor’s duty, but it is the service of everyone. It’s not a matter of having someone preach, but everyone contributes, So, for us to do what others do is not appropriate. We are a very different church!
“What we have done twice now is to have a Zoom session. People were invited to share their joys and concerns, and we pray for each of them. Secondly, we have time to share and also teach about being peacemakers. It’s a kind of lesson or sermon, and I feel that people are not comfortable with this. We are looking for ways to be what we used to be.
“Among church members, we have a fairly stable situation. The majority have their own homes, regular work, and until now, fixed salaries. That’s good, but we know that work has drastically reduced … I have many people who I know lose their jobs or are losing their jobs.
“Because of this, we coordinate with the Mennonite Church to ask church families to adopt needy families, provide what they need, within the frame they are capable of … That is a personal commitment to love our neighbors.
“Suely and I decided to have more grazing time on social media. We have lots of people, both on WhatsApp and Facebook. We were asked to send a video with a message, and Suely, yesterday wrote to people: ‘I prefer the pastors individually …. Shepherding listens to them without judgment, crying together, also smiling with them, that is praying with them, that strengthen them when their knees shake, it helps them to feel loved and care for them. I am tired of seeing and hearing Christians fight for political parties, defend, or attack each other. There are many sick people who need to be accompanied and helped to act with the values of the Kingdom of God. I try not to fall into habit. Count on me if you need to, but don’t expect sermons, I prefer prayer. “
“God bless you and us all.”
Marcos Inhauser also reported that he continued writing regular newspaper columns, which he had done for almost 20 years, published every Wednesday and posted on Facebook and on blogs. His column has more than 10,000 readers, and he has learned that pastors use the ideas in his column for their sermons and classes in Sunday school.
Prayer requests from churches in Brazil:
Authorities say that the next two weeks in Brazil will be the worst. Brazilian leaders are praying and waiting for this upheaval.
The Inhausers are looking for prayer for the Suely family therapy business using social media (Skype and WhatsApp), offering free services to some people who cannot afford to pay as a way to develop services.
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