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MfD: Traditional Slovak shepherds disappearing

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Prague, June 7 (CTK) – The number of traditional shepherds has been decreasing in mountain sheepfolds in Slovakia and they are often replaced by Romanians, Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today.

Shepherds, mountain sheepfolds, little potato dumplings (halusky) and bryndza, the classical image of Slovakia, are vanishing, MfD writes.

There is such a shortage of traditional shepherds that they have to be hired abroad, mostly in Romania, it adds.

“Under the Communist regime, Slovakia had about three million sheep. Now it is just over 300,000. Shepherding is declining,” Anna Kolkusova, from the Liptov Village Museum in the High Tatras, told the paper.

“This relates not only to the consumption of cheese and products of sheep milk, but also to meat. Slovaks have rejected lamb,” she added.

“I feel like crying when I see the mountain meadows full of shrub, which were not grazed for years,” a shepherd is quoted as saying.

“Sheepherding is steeply declining in Slovakia. The situations worsens by the year,” he added.

The shepherd complained that the current generation of shepherds had no followers.

“In the sheepfold, there is work every day. There is not a single day off. The young have no interest in this kind of job. In addition, there is a small salary for such a drudgery,” he added.

Similarly to the Czech Republic, unemployment is falling in Slovakia. Given its less than 8 percent rate, even the corporations who offer much more money only with difficulties hire the new staff, MfD writes.

Slovakia is for the first time in the situation in which people move to it from abroad for work, it adds.

According to estimates, there are some 15,000 foreign workers in Slovakia, mainly from Ukraine, but also from Romania and Bulgaria, MfD writes.

Many of them fill in the gaps in farms, in sheepherding, too.

“It may happen within a few years that you will not encounter a Slovak shepherd at our meadows,” the Slovak television station JOJ has said.

“We are facing tremendous problems when trying to hire the people ready to drive the cattle out to grazing at seven in the morning,” a farmer from east Slovakia told JOJ.

“Locals are often jobless. However, they seem to prefer 300 euros [as unemployment benefit] to the 500 or 600 euros for which they would have to work,” he added.

“People are getting lazy, they are reluctant to do this work,” Milan Moroz, the mayor of the east Slovak village of Cabiny, said.

As a result, Slovaks are being replaced with Romanies, MfD writes.

“We are absolutely satisfied with them. They highly esteem their work. They receive the same salary as Slovaks,” the head of a local cooperative farm is quoted as saying.

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