The steep fall in estimated olive production in Spain has had a dramatic effect on employment opportunities for seasonal agricultural workers.
Olive growers are currently reducing workdays in the groves as many producers are experiencing their worst harvest in recent memory.
The central government in Madrid has approved new measures to ease the access to unemployment support for field laborers in Extremadura and Andalusia, two of the three largest olive oil-producing regions in Spain.See Also:Olive Oil Prices Hit Record Highs in Spain After Unprecedented Market Events
A royal decree approved by the Council of Ministers has reduced the number of minimum workdays needed for agricultural workers to access unemployment support and agrarian income from 20 days to 10 days.
Temporary workers are crucial for the olive sector, and extended public support has been activated already. The measures will allow seasonal workers to collect €460 per month.
The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Food estimated that olive oil production would drop to 780,000 tons in the 2022/23 crop year, 47 percent less than last season.
“This figure, which represents a significant reduction compared to the previous year, has been due to the severe drought of the summer period in the main producing areas, which has caused problems in fruit set,” the ministry said.
While estimates for the harvest are significantly lower than normal, the ministry said, “these estimates could increase according to the climatic evolution and rainfall that may occur in the coming weeks since the fruit is still in the process of oil accumulation.”
In March, the government reduced the minimum number of workdays until the end of the year from 35 to 20. With the new measure, public support to temporary workers will be extended to June 2023.
According to El Mundo, this is the first time in Spanish history that the minimum workdays needed to access public support are reduced to 10. In 1994, rural employment legislation signed by the government and unions was hailed as historical, and it set the minimum requirement to 40 workdays.
In recent crop years, such as 2012 and 2019, when harvest decreased by 50 percent compared to previous seasons, the minimum requirement was set at 20 days, and it is credited with safeguarding seasonal laborers.
The new royal decree, which went into effect immediately, also sought to safeguard consumers from excessive energy price rises and reconfigured the salaries in several public sector worker categories.