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Skills shortages go ‘bottoms up’

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More skills shortages are reported, but this time it's serious - a threat to the annual wine jamboree that is Beaujolais Nouveau.

Apparently there's a serious shortage of potential grape pickers for this years harvest - an extra 30,000 must be found in the next two weeks, otherwise the ritual of the rush to be the first to sample the new wine in November may be seriously affected.

The Gamay grapes which make the wine are harvested in early September each year, and 55m bottles of two month old Beaujolais Nouveau are rushed from France to 190 countries in time for the annual festivities.

Quoted in today's Guardian, President of the Beaujolais wine board Marc Le Brun is unsure of the reasons behind the staffing problems this year: "it seems no one wants to pick grapes any more....I wouldn't quite say we're panicking, but there are only about two weeks to go before harvest time and we're a long, long way short of the 40,000 people we need". Students, who usually make up the bulk of the temporary staff employed, are turning down the opportunity to undertake the physically demanding work, and France's economic fortunes have improved, which means that the work has become less attractive to the country's unemployed.

The only other option left to hard-pressed growers is to use machines, but this would mean the loss of the hard-won 'appellation controllee' status. There is one glimmer of hope, though - the idea of working in the vineyards may be extremely appealing to anyone currently sitting in an office while others are sunning themselves on holiday!

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