Too few pickers for grape harvest

Grapes in Roussillon

Vineyards are still looking for 100,000 seasonal workers to make sure they get their grapes picked next month

VINEYARDS and Pôle Emploi employment offices say they are thousands of workers short of the numbers needed to cope with next month’s vendange grape harvest.

There will be few French heading to join the annual harvest in Beaujolais and Champagne – instead the bulk of the 100,000 people picking the grapes will be Spaniards, Turks, Kosovans and travelling people.

In Beaujolais alone they need 50,000 people to pick the grapes – and it is a job that has to be done properly as many wines are made using the whole grape, without being battered and squashed.

Beaujolais and Champagne are the only two wine regions of France which still use exclusively hand-picked grapes. While others have moved on to using mechanical pickers the slopes of the two regions and the way of making the wine rules this out.

Champagne needs 9,000 workers for its vendange and expects about four-fifths of them to be from eastern Europe.

Each will be working for the minimum gross wage (Smic) of €8.86 an hour. For the 14,000 Spaniards who will be heading for the south-west vineyards, that is a welcome boost as unemployment on the other side of the Pyrenees is 20% - and the minimum pay there is just €6.10.

However, this is well short of the numbers who arrived during the hey-day of the vendange when every vineyard was hand-picked – in 1972 92,000 Spaniards were picking grapes in France.

Photo: David Blaikie. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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