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Labour shortage: Agri unions urge gov’t to facilitate return of foreign labourers

By Rana Husseini - Jul 14,2020 - Last updated at Jul 14,2020

Unionists in the agriculture sector on Monday called on the government to facilitate the return of foreign agriculture workers to the Kingdom to protect the industry in the coming years (JT file photo)

AMMAN — Unionists in the agriculture sector on Monday called on the government to facilitate the return of foreign agriculture workers to the Kingdom to protect the industry in the coming years.

President of the Jordan Valley Farmers Union Adnan Khaddam told The Jordan Times that the labour ministry "is working towards encouraging Jordanian labourers to take over from foreign labourers, which is harming the sector". 

"Many foreign labourers have left the Kingdom or have been ordered to leave when the situation changes and if they do, we will not have any crops next year," Khaddam said.

President of the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) Abdelhadi Falahat also told The Jordan Times that the agriculture sector is "suffering from a crisis due to the shortage of foreign labourers".

"We feel that the agriculture sector needs more support and attention from the government to resolve the problem of foreign workers, including those who have left the country," Falahat said.  

The AEA president added that one of the most “practical and effective” solutions that the government could adopt is allowing foreign labourers who had left the country before the COVID-19 crisis to come back under strict health conditions.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Labour Spokesperson Mohammad Zuod said that the agriculture sector is “a priority” for the ministry and "we are trying to keep the foreign agriculture workers in the Kingdom and facilitate their stay".

"We have decreased the work permit fees of foreign workers from JD520 to JD320 and allowed foreign workers’ permits to be transferable so that they can fill the gaps in the agriculture industry," Zuod told The Jordan Times.

Around 20,000 foreign workers have registered to leave the Kingdom through the ministry’s electronic platforms, according to Zuod.

"The greatest challenge is that the health restrictions will not allow any foreign workers who leave the country to return for the time being and at the same time Jordanians do not like to work in the agriculture sector," Zuod added.

On May 31, His Majesty King Abdullah called for stepping up efforts to develop local product specifications and quality, as well as expand the pharmaceutical, medical supplies and food processing industries to cover domestic needs and increase exports.

At a meeting with the steering committee to support the national pharmaceutical, medical supplies and food processing industries at Al Husseiniya Palace, attended by HRH Crown Prince Hussein, King Abdullah urged identifying an entity to implement the expansion of these industries within a clear timeframe, according to a Royal Court statement.

His Majesty noted the importance of identifying agricultural land in Jordan and the types of crops best suited for cultivation.

The steering committee was formed by Royal directives in mid-April to expand local production of food, medicine and medical supplies.

On May 10 during a visit to a farm project, King Abdullah stressed the importance of helping Jordanian farmers shift from traditional farming to value-added agricultural products and target export markets.

King Abdullah, accompanied by the Crown Prince, commended entrepreneurial agricultural projects and their capacity to generate jobs, noting the importance of maintaining public safety procedures.

 

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