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Refugees are helping French wineries fill labour shortages

Grand Cru Bordeaux estate Château Pédesclaux in Pauillac has enlisted the help of refugees in order to fill labour shortages brought about by the pandemic.

Hamed from Sudan is one of a team of refugees to work the harvest at Château Pedesclaux in Bordeaux © The UN Refugee Agency / Kate Thompson-Gorry

As reported by the UN Refugee Agency, Pédesclaux has joined forces with an association of former rugby professionals to offer seasonal jobs and training to refugees.

Zakaria from Sudan also took part in the harvest and feels safe now he’s living in France © The UN Refugee Agency / Kate Thompson-Gorry

Ovale Citoyen uses rugby as a way of promoting team-building and inclusion. Its winery work project, which launched last year, is called ‘Drop in the Fields’.

“The employment potential in the vineyards is huge. Viticulture has a shortage of labour and this lack has been exponential since the Covid crisis began,” the association’s founder, Jean François Puech, told the UN Refugee Agency.

The château hired 90 refugees to pick grapes during the 2020 harvest, which was a particularly hard time to recruit temporary staff due to the pandemic.

“I have found a job, my children are in school. I feel safe here,” Sudanese refugee Zakaria, who was granted refugee status in France in 2017, told the UN Refugee Agency after being taken on by the estate.

Harvesting grapes during a pandemic has not been easy, but having the extra pairs of hands during the harvest has been vital for the château.

“There was a lot of uncertainty about our ability to have people among the vines. But the vines won’t wait for us. We follow the cycle of the seasons.

“What is great about Ovale Citoyen is the energy they put into making it happen,” Vincent Bache-Grabielsen, technical director of Pédesclaux, told the agency.

A number of the refugees were trained up in vineyard jobs like tractor driving with the view to being offered full-time employment at the estate. Ovale Citoyen was created by former rugby players from Union Bordeaux Bègles.

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