Icelanders lend sick farmers a helping hand

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

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Icelandic sheep farmers 2002Image source, Wolfgang Kaehler/Getty Images
Image caption,
Sheep are the mainstay of Icelandic farming

The Icelandic farming union has been surprised by the enthusiastic response to its appeal for volunteers to help sick farmers out during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Farmers' Association advertised temporary manual labour openings in rural areas where families can't cope - six farmers have already come down with the virus in the Vestur-Hunavatnssysla area in the north-west of the country alone, the Visir news site reports.

But project manager Gudbjorg Jonsdottir did not expect the scale of the response.

"Almost 100 people have volunteered on our list. It is very moving that the country is thinking of our farmers and is ready to help.

"We are talking about people with experience and knowledge, who have an agricultural education. But there are many people who lost their jobs in tourism, as well as employment consultants who also want to help - decent people from all over the country, "Gudbjorg told the news site.

'Lambing is biggest concern'

She said the offers are particularly timely because the lambing season is about to begin.

As this coincides with the likely rise in the number of cases, it is not clear whether farmers elsewhere in the country may have to self-isolate - if they are not already doing so.

""The biggest concern is how we deal with the lambing," she told Visir, adding that the country's farmers play a "crucial role in maintaining food supplies, now more than ever."

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Iceland's 475,893 sheep outnumbered the human population by over 100,000 in 2017 figures, so farmers will need a lot of help if Covid-19 spreads this spring, the Reykjavik Grapevine news site explained.

Farming is still an important part of the economy, and the volunteers could limit the economic damage to the sector, it added.

Reporting by Martin Morgan