Portugal to pay growers giving to charity as fields brim with berries

By Victoria Waldersee LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese berry growers unable to sell their produce because of the coronavrius lockdown will be compensated at 40% of the market price if they donate it to charity, the agriculture ministry said. Restrictions on travel because of the novel coronavirus have left the country with few workers, many of whom come from outside of the European Union, for the berry-picking season.

Reuters April 10, 2020 00:08:33 IST
Portugal to pay growers giving to charity as fields brim with berries

Portugal to pay growers giving to charity as fields brim with berries

By Victoria Waldersee

LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese berry growers unable to sell their produce because of the coronavrius lockdown will be compensated at 40% of the market price if they donate it to charity, the agriculture ministry said.

Restrictions on travel because of the novel coronavirus have left the country with few workers, many of whom come from outside of the European Union, for the berry-picking season.

The agriculture ministry is encouraging the Portuguese to buy local produce, but consumers are avoiding fresh fruit as they limit their shopping trips to try to avoid contagion.

Portugal has so far confirmed 13,956 cases of the coronavirus cases and 409 deaths, a relatively low toll, especially compared with neighbouring Spain and Italy.

But restrictive measures in Portugal and other countries have led to a drastic drop in demand just as the fields fill with ripe berries.

"Blueberry season starts in a week or two, and prospects are pretty dark," Luis Pinheiro, head of an association of 42 berry growers, told Reuters, adding the group will deliver ten tonnes of raspberries to a food bank in Lisbon next week.

"On the one hand, if the market gets worse, unfortunately, we won't need more people. But if it's not too bad, and demand returns, we won't have enough," he said.

Hundreds of staff who went home to Ukraine or Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Bangladesh or Pakistan for the winter season are stuck with no way of returning.

The European Commission is supporting agricultural workers within the bloc to help them return to their places of work - but there is no solution in place for those stuck outside the Schengen open border zone.

Farming associations have asked the government to set up a scheme of incentives for Portuguese workers whose jobs have been temporarily suspended because of the crisis - over 640,000, according to the latest figures - to work in the fields.

(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; editing by Andrei Khalip and Barbara Lewis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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