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