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Recruitment of foreign workers in agricultural sector resumes

By Hana Namrouqa - Oct 31,2017 - Last updated at Oct 31,2017

AMMAN — The Jordan Valley Farmers Union (JVFU) on Tuesday announced the continuation of the recruitment of foreign workers in the agricultural sector following a 16-month ban.

JVFU President Adnan Khaddam said that authorities received the first application for recruiting agricultural workers from Egypt earlier this week, and that they are expecting farmers to start submitting more applications to the Ministry of Labour.

Khaddam noted that the ban was lifted following “strong objections” from every segment of the agricultural sector over the past year, adding that a meeting between farmers’ representatives and Prime Minister Hani Mulki held earlier last month pushed for lifting the ban.

“Following the meeting, the prime minister issued instructions to allow the recruitment of new guest workers in the agricultural sector to provide farmers with the number of agricultural workers needed,” Khaddam told The Jordan Times over the phone.

He praised the new decision, underscoring that it will “save the agricultural sector from further deterioration”.

“A total of 60-65 per cent of land in the Jordan Valley was not cultivated this past year and the lack of agricultural workers is to blame,” Khaddam highlighted.

The union had also recently complained about the same issue.

The government announced in June last year that it had stopped the recruitment of new guest workers in an effort to regulate the labour market and study the number of guest workers in Jordan.

The decision had angered segments of the agricultural sector, pushing the government to later grant exceptions and announcing that it would be unifying guest workers’ permit fees.

The guest labourers’ fees, which used to cost employers between JD180 and JD700, depending on the sector, were unified at JD300. The government said that the decision was meant to streamline the market.

Khaddam said that even with the decision to allow the recruitment of new guest workers in the agricultural sector, the union still has pending demands.

“We urge the government to reconsider its decision to raise the recruitment fees and to also abolish the decision obliging farmers who employ 6-20 agricultural workers to provide a ban guarantee of JD5,000,” Khaddam added.

He underlined that small farmers, who make up 90 per cent of the agricultural sector, are the ones who hire less than 20 foreign agricultural workers.

In light of the losses suffered by the sector due to the lack of sufficient marketing, the farmers are experiencing financial hardships and most of them are in debt with  the banks, he explained.

The Ministry of Agriculture first announced its plans for re-allowing the recruitment of new guest workers in the sector in September. It indicated that the step was aimed at increasing the number of guest workers in the agricultural sector as more lands are expected to be cultivated this year, following the reopening of the Karameh-Tureibil border crossing in late August, according to sector insiders.

 

The Tureibil border crossing is considered by farmers and by fruits and vegetables exporters as the gateway for Jordanian produce to reach the Iraqi market.

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