Business

Europe's Supply of Fruits and Vegetables Hindered by COVID-19 Restrictions

Travel restrictions are keeping agricultural laborers from their seasonal jobs, leaving crops unharvested amid the coronavirus emergency.

Mar. 31, 2020
By Costas Vasilopoulos

This spring, toma­toes, straw­ber­ries, onions and aspara­gus may be left to per­ish in the fields and farms of Europe, as thou­sands of for­eign land work­ers are likely to eschew har­vest­ing due to fear of the novel coro­n­avirus and the travel restric­tions in place through­out the con­ti­nent.

Work in the entire food chain sup­ply faces huge prob­lems. Num­bers of labor­ers from neigh­bor­ing coun­tries show a rapid decline.- Julia Klöck­ner, Ger­man min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture

France is expect­ing 200,000 fewer for­eign labor­ers than usual to show up this sea­son and 100,000 sea­sonal work­ers might miss their annual jobs in Italy. Ger­many is pre­pared to see only a frac­tion of the 80,000 migrant farm­work­ers nor­mally arriv­ing in the coun­try each year.

Work in the entire food chain sup­ply faces huge prob­lems,” Julia Klöck­ner, the Ger­man min­is­ter for agri­cul­ture, said. Num­bers of labor­ers from neigh­bor­ing coun­tries show a rapid decline.”

Some gov­ern­ments have called upon their cit­i­zens to pro­vide a help­ing hand.

See more: COVID-19 Cov­er­age

France has asked all those cur­rently out of busi­ness due to the clo­sure mea­sures, and even stu­dents, to work in the fields.

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In Aus­tria, 7,000 cit­i­zens have already com­mit­ted to help­ing after East­ern Euro­pean labor­ers left the coun­try, while Ger­many has listed thou­sands of open jobs online in an attempt to fill vacan­cies in its agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

Even if the har­vest­ing of veg­eta­bles and fruits is man­aged, the reg­u­lar sup­ply of mar­kets could fall vic­tim to the exist­ing trans­port con­straints.

The cities may soon start to lack fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles,” Sebastien Her­aud, a French farmer, said. Even those of us who can har­vest have trou­ble sell­ing.”

In advance, a report released by Copa-Cogeca, the Euro­pean farm­ers’ union, revealed the ways the pan­demic is affect­ing the agri­cul­tural sec­tor and high­lighted the impor­tance of the tem­po­rary labor­ers in the sec­tor.

E.U. farm­ers are increas­ingly depen­dent on sea­sonal work­ers who pro­vide valu­able assis­tance dur­ing peak plant­ing, prun­ing and har­vest­ing peri­ods or for other farm-related work,” the report said. Recent restric­tions on the intra-EU move­ment of skilled work­ers have already had a major impact on sea­sonal plan­ning.”

The union urged the author­i­ties to facil­i­tate the move­ment of sea­sonal labor­ers in the E.U., pro­vided that the exist­ing pub­lic health pre­cau­tions are fol­lowed.



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