The world of wine in Germany is changing due to Coronavirus emergency. The safety rules are extremely strict and there can be only a few seasonal workers.

German wine sector

German producers are experiencing a working situation that’s very similar to the Italian one: work can be done both in the vineyard and in the cellar, respecting the rules of health and social distancing. But there is one problem in common: lack of seasonal workers. Urged by farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture has drawn up a protocol together with the Ministry of the Internal Affairs. Last April 2nd, 40,000 seasonal workers were given permission, limited to April and May, pushing the requirement to approximately 100,000 by the end of May and 300,000 by the end of 2020. In addition, the German government has decided that social security payments to seasonal workers paid by employers, can take place until 31 October, after 115 working days instead of the usual 70.

Safety rules for wine workers

The safety rules are extremely strict. For example, seasonal workers cannot arrive by bus but only by plane; companies must go to the airport to pick them up and the first 14 days they must live practically in quarantine. Before the protocol, the Deutsche Bauern-verband (DBV), a similar body to Italian Coldiretti, and the Ministry of Agriculture had already activated free online job supply/demand platforms to recruit seasonal workers, also giving the opportunity to join to students, asylum seekers, unemployed and restaurant and bar staff. Training material was made available.

The effects of restaurants’ closure

The total closure of restaurants, bars, etc. started on the third weekend of March nationwide, so it’s too soon to estimate the damage. For the dining business, pick-up or home delivery service is allowed. Direct sales in the cellar are allowed throughout the country, obviously without tasting, and observing the safety rules. In Baden-Württemberg wine shops must remain closed but sales can continue in the other production regions. Companies that sell agricultural equipment, machinery, fertilizers, etc. are operational. The government has also decided on an “emergency support” program for “VAT number holders” and for small businesses, which also applies to farmers. Companies with up to 5 employees receive 9,000 euros, up to 10 employees the sum amounts to 15,000 euros. The stimulus is valid for three months and the money is non-refundable. In addition to this, also further regional measures and access to credit are applied.

by Veronika Crecelius, Italy correspondent for Weinwirtsch newspaper