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In Figari, Corsica, Moroccan workers bring the vines to life

Jean-Baptiste de Peretti gets up early. And the day, shortly before him. At the wheel of his pick-up, his spirit still fluffy, he descends along his vineyard, which extends over 15 hilly hectares. In the foothills of the splendid mountain range of Omu di Cagna, in Corse-du-Sud, he details the vines he started planting in 2013 and which are stirred by a timid wind coming from the sea.

Between the rows of the youngest vines, the 52-year-old winemaker greets his two Moroccan farm workers, Abdou and Morad (they requested anonymity). For 6 hours, the two men have been busy installing a drip system that will refresh the budding vine. It hasn’t rained for three months in Figari. Along the way, Abdou and Morad bend down to fix the guardians of the still frail feet, with a repetitive gesture. Finally, they pull out by hand the few weeds that still cling to the granite soil that has just been plowed. In no time, it will be over 30°C under the sun.

Morad, 38, works in the vineyards of the Peretti della Rocca estate, in Figari (Corse-du-Sud), July 27, 2022.

A “difficult job”, concedes Jean-Baptiste de Peretti. Surely one of the reasons why the estate has difficulty recruiting seasonal workers. Here as elsewhere, labor is scarce so, like others before him, Mr. de Peretti turned to Morocco to hire.

family tradition

In 2022, an increasing number of employers brought in seasonal workers from abroad. Thus, the Directorate General for Foreigners in France (DGEF) has already issued 22,000 seasonal work permits, twice as many as in 2021. This growth is explained by “the lifting of health constraints and increased tensions in the labor market”says the DGEF.

Mr. de Peretti traveled to the Meknes wine region in January 2019. He wanted to choose seasonal workers on the spot who had “a real knowledge of the vine” for its exploitation labeled AOC and in organic conversion. There, he met a dozen workers, and among them, Morad. The Corsican boss asked the Moroccan to reverse the tractor and the deal was done.

After three seasons, Morad, 38, signed a full-time permanent contract at the Peretti della Rocca estate. “He is someone very important to me”insists the winemaker. “Jean-Baptiste is like family”, returns the worker to him. Now that he is year-round in Corsica, Morad would like to bring his wife and four children. For this man, migration is part of a family tradition. Coming from a family of fourteen children, he has a brother who is a farm worker like him in Haute-Corse, two brothers who are mechanics and truck drivers on the continent, another brother in construction in Spain and yet another who works as a hairdresser in the Netherlands. Two brothers who make the agricultural seasons in Corsica complete this diaspora.

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