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Italian farmer's stark choice - pay to fly workers back or go bankrupt

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By Mark Armstrong  with AP
Fennel Harvest in Avezzano, Italy
Fennel Harvest in Avezzano, Italy   -   Copyright  AP Photo   -  

Due to the coronavirus pandemic farmers in Italy have resorted to chartering private planes to bring back seasonal workers to help with the summer harvest.
Modesto Angelucci owns the Ortomedia farm in the fertile Fucino Valley in Abruzzo.

The region produces valuable crops such as fennel and lettuce.

After the COVID-19 crisis closed Italy's borders many farmers were left with a stark choice - pay themselves to bring the workers back legally, or risk a reduced harvest and face the financial consequences.

"My company paid about €4,500 through the Farmer's Association (Confagricoltura), that oversaw the procedures, to bring back our workers from Morocco lawfully, so that they could harvest our product," explained Modesto. "They are the only ones who can do this job, they are specialised workers who were trained over the years to carry out this kind of job."

The workers usually return to their hometowns during the winter months and fly back for the next cycle in early spring.

It's been like that for many years, but no one anticipated the pandemic. Just days before their due return to Italy in March, international borders were shut down.

The farmers had to get them back, or face bankruptcy.