German asparagus season faces peril as coronavirus shuts out pickers

BERLIN (Reuters) - German growers of white asparagus, an expensive delicacy savoured by food lovers in spring, fear this year's harvest may go to waste as coronavirus lockdowns shut out seasonal pickers from Eastern Europe. Ernst-August Winkelmann, whose farm in Beelitz southwest of Berlin produces about 6,000 tons of asparagus each season, says he is short of 500 pickers and risks having no choice but to leave the finger-thick white spears to rot in the soil. Most of his seasonal workers come from Romania and Poland.

Reuters March 27, 2020 00:17:16 IST
German asparagus season faces peril as coronavirus shuts out pickers

German asparagus season faces peril as coronavirus shuts out pickers

BERLIN (Reuters) - German growers of white asparagus, an expensive delicacy savoured by food lovers in spring, fear this year's harvest may go to waste as coronavirus lockdowns shut out seasonal pickers from Eastern Europe.

Ernst-August Winkelmann, whose farm in Beelitz southwest of Berlin produces about 6,000 tons of asparagus each season, says he is short of 500 pickers and risks having no choice but to leave the finger-thick white spears to rot in the soil.

Most of his seasonal workers come from Romania and Poland. The interior ministry on Wednesday said it was imposing an indefinite entry ban on fruit and vegetable pickers in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

"The decision is wrong on many levels," said Winkelmann. "We rely on those people for a living. We also have very high hygiene standards, we house our workers in separate facilities and they live on the farm. So the risk is low."

Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner acknowledged on Thursday that Germany won't be able to replace the almost 300,000 seasonal agricultural workers, most of whom come from eastern European countries.

"The staffing situation is very tight along the full length of the food supply chain," she told a news conference. "Supplies of labour from neighbouring countries have shrunk, sometimes very sharply, with slaughterhouses, meatpackers and dairies particularly seriously affected."

Highlighting the importance of asparagus in German culture, the mass-selling Bild newspaper raised the possibility of drafting soldiers to help with picking the vegetable, which is typically served drenched in butter or with Hollandaise sauce, schnitzel and potatoes.

Germans are famed for their love of white asparagus rather than the more common green variety. At Winkelmann's farm, 95% of the harvest if of the white variety.

"We've been getting calls from people saying they want to volunteer and come help us," said Winkelmann. "It is heartening but we need to train these people and time is pressing we need to start picking now."

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.