top of page

Europe’s call for migrants to feed their people and economies

The spring crops of fruit and vegetable in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the UK and other countries across Europe are about to be ripped apart because of the lack of seasonal migrants due to the coronavirus pandemic. The lack of seasonal workers caused by the worldwide lockdown is jeopardising the withering of fruit and vegetables. Europe is hurrying to try to fill the workforce gaps by promising special remunerations -residence permits, legal work status, and reduced housing prices.

Ironically, governments around Europe for years tried to dismiss migrants, refugees, and those considered 'low-skilled' workers scored at the periphery of the economy. But now the same governments are looking for that indispensable missing link as manpower shortage threatens to compromise the crops and the national economies.

Farmers and agriculture workers in Europe have warned about the problem of abandoned fields and lost crops recently.

Spain, Europe’s biggest exporter of fruit and vegetables, is feeling the impact of this deficiency. "We're very limited at the moment when it comes to having enough hands to pick and harvest" informed the president of Spain's leading farming association "Asaja".

In Italy, the effect is even greater as 90% of agricultural workers are seasonal, the majority of them coming from Romania, in lockdown as well.

The Italian Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova -a past farmworker who left school for the fields at the age of 14- proposed giving undocumented work permits to solve the gap in labour, allowing 600,000 seasonal migrants to travel to the country to help the agricultural sector to start again. She claims: "We cannot let the products rot in the fields while more and more people in the country are hungry".

Because Germany relies on 300,000 seasonal workers annually, the concern is growing day by day as vegetables are risking languishing in fields. The government has launched the "Land Helps" net to call for volunteers who can help farmers to pick up fruits and vegetables.

France is sharing the same fate too. It has lost its usual Spanish and Polish workers causing a shortage of more than 200,000 people.

Governments are trying to circumvent the lockdown restrictions to let seasonal workers travel, while the European commission has envisaged new measures to be more flexible in the future with asylum seekers and migrants to become more easily legalised in exchange for an immediate response.

While many farmers are buying time by delaying harvests, the national economies are now asking students, unemployed and retired people to save the crops as the consumption of fruit and vegetables has boomed to strengthen the immune system in recent weeks during the pandemic. The truth? Without the arduous and repetitive work carried out by the arms of immigrants in the fields, the food chain of the national economies is at risk.

Got something to say? We'd love to hear from you.


bottom of page