Polish Toledo

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A German Problem

The eagerly awaited asparagus season has arrived in Germany, but growers fear they will not have enough pickers for the harvest. Walter Heuer, a grower in Lower Saxony, said the movement of job-seeking Poles to the UK and Scandinavia had created problems for German growers.

"Seasonal labour is very strictly regulated here," he complained. "We have lots of paperwork."

German asparagus growers traditionally rely heavily on Polish workers.

The UK especially has experienced an influx of Poles since it opened up its labour market to the new EU member states in 2004.

Search for recruits

The German government has ruled that growers must hire at least 20% of their pickers from among German unemployed. But Mr Heuer told the BBC News website that he had experienced "big problems with unemployed Germans" hired to do the arduous harvesting.

Last year only four turned up for work on his farm out of 12 hired, he said.

The shortage of Poles had also forced him to seek Romanians to do the work, he said, adding that "Poles are better adapted to our culture".

A Lower Saxony labour office official, Michael Klinke, told the German news website Focus that the number of Polish pickers on German farms had declined.

They were drawn to the higher wages on offer in the UK and the Netherlands, he said.

It is critical for the farmers to harvest asparagus on time, as it may spoil if it stays in the ground even a week too long.

Source: BBC 4-16-07


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