Tuesday 02 June 2020

Dutch farmers accuse Germany of poaching seasonal farm workers

tractor in field

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Dutch farmers are afraid of losing seasonal labourers to Germany and Belgium because of relaxed tax rules in those countries and tough legislation in the Netherlands, the Financieele Dagblad reports.

The German government is trying to soften the impact of the corona crisis on agriculture by allowing seasonal labourers already in the country to remain there for longer without paying premiums. Belgium too is relaxing its rules.

Dutch farmers, who are preparing to harvest strawberries and asparagus, are worried Germany will lure much-needed workers away now that it has closed its borders and new seasonal labourers can no longer come into the country.  Moreover, workers who want to travel to the Netherlands via Germany are being stopped at the border.

‘Farmers are panicking. They could be hit hard,’ a spokesman for farmers association LTO told the paper. ‘The food production chain must not be interrupted at the border, whether it is the flow of goods or people. We are in almost daily consultation about this with the cabinet.’

Farmers claim Dutch rules surrounding seasonal work are ‘constricting’ and ‘sometimes impossible’. If these rules are not relaxed the Netherlands could lose the battle for labour, the LTO warned. The Dutch horticulture sector alone employs 85,000 seasonal workers a year. Germany employs a similar number.

The FD points out that Germany, which only has a 40% self-sufficiency rate as far as fruit and vegetables are concerned, would suffer too if Dutch farmers are not able to safeguard their harvests. A quarter of all Dutch exports goes to Germany. In 2019 the Netherlands reported exports to the value of €23.6bn.

The tax break for workers in Germany will run until October 1.

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