Farm labor issues follow COVID-19
Germany may lose up to a third of its seasonal agricultural workers in the wake of reports that it has closed its borders with Bulgaria and Romania.
This, of course, has no impact on the North American produce supply chain but it is another troubling farm-related consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak. It won’t be the last time that COVID-19 and farm workers will be in the same headline.
"Starting March 25, German borders are closed to seasonal agricultural workers from key countries including Bulgaria and Romania. Germany relies on seasonal agricultural workers, which make up nearly 30% of the agricultural work force. This will primarily impact Germany’s fruit and vegetable sectors, especially asparagus, strawberries, lettuce, and cucumbers. Agricultural Minister Julia Kloeckner stressed, “One can only harvest what has been planted,” and called for additional aid to support primary agricultural operators.
Workers are still permitted from Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovak Republic. However, Poland implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all workers returning from other countries, which might limit the desire of Polish workers to come
The Germany Farmers Union commented, “[The] impact is difficult to assess but should not be underestimated. Currently most impacted will be the planting of vegetables. This can be delayed for a
Short- and medium term availability of fruits and vegetables will also depend on the situation in Spain, as Germany imports substantial amounts from there.”
Regarding the EU Commission’s draft framework for State Aid, adopted March 19, Minister Kloeckner requested a doubling of grants and tax benefits to primary agricultural producers, noting that farmers should also be compensated for the loss of seasonal workers."
Check out more coverage of farm workers and the coronavirus:
The Packer’s coverage of what the the Salinas-based Grower-Shipper Association of Central California is doing to help prepare growers for taking precautions for their workers.
From The New York Times:
Coronavirus blocks farm labor in Europe
From the Press Democrat
From the Food & Environment and Reporting Network:
That coverage included a link to a letter from the United Farm Workers to agricultural employers.
Western Growers has several resources related to coronavirus, incuding this web page on growers should do if a worker tests positive for the virus.