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Eurowings Offers Discounted Flights to Get Tens of Thousands of Harvest Workers to Germany Amid Coronavirus Lockdown

Eurowings Offers Discounted Flights to Get Tens of Thousands of Harvest Workers to Germany Amid Coronavirus Lockdown

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Despite initial panic buying in some countries that stripped supermarket shelves of staples like pasta, cleaning supplies and, of course, toilet paper amid Coronavirus lockdowns, food supplies have remained surprisingly robust. Many supermarkets chains across Europe and elsewhere have moved to reassure customers that there’s more than enough food to go around – so long as everyone buys responsibly.

But could the supply chain that supplies fresh fruit, vegetables and grains to the food industry be set for a major disruption because of the COVID-19 crisis? Farmers across Europe are warning that a ‘land army’ of temporary harvest workers from Romania, Slovakia and elsewhere are missing before the picking season ramps up through April and into the Summer months.

Travel restrictions and lockdowns have stopped transient seasonal workers from travelling to where their skills and stamina are needed – and it could mean thousands of tonnes of fresh produce going to waste if labour isn’t found quickly.

In the United Kingdom, the British Growers’ Association says at least 70,000 workers are needed and is calling on temporarily laid-off Brits to take up the challenge. But it might be a tough ask – last year, an estimated 98 per cent of workers came from overseas to work fields and crops.

The same problems are being faced by farmers in other countries across Spain, including Spain and Italy which are both badly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic but have crops going to waste.

And Germany is also facing up to the challenge – the country is in desperate need of tens of thousands of fruit and vegetable pickers but is struggling to recruit them at home. That’s why, despite Coronavirus border restrictions, the Interior Ministry gave special authority for at least 40,000 foreign workers to enter Germany to work the harvest.

“The harvest will not wait, nor can sowing be postponed,” explained Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner. “In order to supply consumers with sufficient and high-quality domestic food even during the Corona pandemic, farmers are dependent on the cooperation of foreign seasonal workers”.

Lufthansa Group subsidiary Eurowings is helping in the national effort, working with German farmers to offer discounted flights to get harvest workers where they are needed as fast as possible. Initial flights have already been lined up from Romania to several cities across Germany.

To work around the lockdown, workers can only get to the country via plane from other European Union countries and on flights organised in cooperation with the Interior Ministry and German Farmers Association.

Eurowings is likely to organise more flights and is asking farmers to contact them to let them know their requirements and where they should send their planes to collect workers. It’s not only an imaginative way to redeploy planes when normal demand for air travel is all but non-existent, it also solves a very real problem.

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