STA, 9 April 2020 - In the new reality of closed borders Slovenia like most others countries is struggling to secure what are often foreign seasonal workers in agriculture. The hop trellis construction is currently the most pressing issue and it looks like it will be resolved with two large organised transfers of Romanian workers.
According to the head of the Association of Slovenian Hop Growers Janez Oset, five buses carrying 193 Romanian workers will be brought in presumably on Saturday.
Oset, who told the STA in March that the growers needed between 800 and 1,000 seasonal workers in the spring but that only 250 of what are usually Romanian workers had arrived by then, explained the association had managed to secure a permit for the transport of the workers across Hungary.
He said face masks had been provided for all of them, while the workers also need to have special Romanian agro health insurance for a 45-day period so eventual treatment costs are covered. All will moreover need to provide a certificate they are not SARS-CoV-2 carriers.
In line with instructions from the Health Ministry, compulsory 14-day quarantine for those entering the country also applies for seasonal workers, but Oset said this was not feasible given the work needed to proceed immediately.
He is instead in favour of a quarantine regime that would involve accommodation organised by the hop growers, who would need to take the workers' temperature on a daily basis and isolate any symptomatic individuals.
"It is high time the workers from Romania, who have been working at hop farms in Slovenia for years, came and help," Oset said, arguing any additional delays would lead to the harvest being lost.
Oset, who expects another group from Romanian workers in about 10 days, said he had written to Prime Minister Janez Janša and Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec about the situation. He noted Germany had flown in 80,000 workers from Romania to assist its hop growers.
The Agriculture Ministry has meanwhile said that it has become actively involved in addressing worker shortages in the sector. The ministry said it established communication with student job services and the Employment Service.
The ministry is also coordinating with other government departments so as to enable other people to help out in agriculture if they wish to do so, with the ministry counting on pensioners, those temporarily laid-off and students.