Recession-hit Italians return to vineyards for harvest

Recession-hit Italians return to vineyards for harvest

ITALY - Hard-up Italians have increasingly taken the place of immigrant seasonal labourers in the vineyards this harvest season - and a new pilot project plans to increase the number even further.

In Oltrepo-Pavese, a wine region in northern Italy, the farmers' union Coldiretti has launched an initiative called the "Harvest of Solidarity".

The plan is to match up supply and demand for vineyard workers in the surrounding area and to create a base of local seasonal labourers who can be hired by farmers when needed.

Davide Stocco, 38, owner of a 10-hectare (25-acre) vineyard near Pavia, said he used the new Coldiretti system when three of the seven labourers he hired cancelled at the last minute.

Unlike previous years, when Stocco hired mostly immigrants for the grape harvest, this year it is mostly Italians - many of them young and permanently unemployed.

"The harvest is not difficult work. Anyone can do it. These are almost all young people who want to learn and apply themselves," he said.

"Let's hope they want to continue."

On the second day of harvest, Stocco said his new labourers had been working well, as they were seen snipping off bunches of grapes into large buckets.

"This is a helping hand we are giving to unemployed people here," Stocco said.

"Italians did not want to work in the fields before and we had a lot of trouble finding labour," he said.

"But these last two years, people have come back to do work like harvesting."

Daris, 25, who studied for a job in hotels but has not managed to find one yet, said he might stay in farmwork.

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