The new entry ban means that Norwegian growers are missing a lot of manpower. Now they fear that as a result there will be far fewer Norwegian grown fruit and vegetables in the shops this autumn.
Elisabeth Gjems, director of Hedmark Bondelag: "At the moment, it is crucial for the work in the spring and the crops we need."
Norwegian agriculture relies on foreign workers to produce enough food. But the new entry ban, which has been introduced to counter the corona crisis, poses major challenges for Norwegian growers.
Same situation in other countries
According to Gjems, about 30,000 seasonal workers work in Norwegian agriculture every year. A lot of work is done by hand in the cultivation of vegetables, berries and fruit, which is why Gjems fears that the lack of labour will affect the food supply in Norway. Several Norwegian growers are now considering dividing the cultivation differently and switching to other products. Gjems: “Then there will be fewer Norwegian vegetables available. The problem is that we see the same kind of situation in the other European countries, which are now also finding it difficult to find workers. So it is also not easy to import the products from other countries. ”
Authorities must intervene
On Tuesday, Norges Bondelag, the interest organisation for Norwegian farmers / growers, was in a crisis meeting with the vegetable industry. There they discussed how much labor will be needed in the coming months.
Gjems: "It is important that the Ministry of Agriculture takes over from there and helps to provide the manpower we have in the country." Gjems believes that people who are now made redundant should be given the opportunity to work in agriculture.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Olaug Bollestad tells NRK that she has met with several parties within the agricultural sector. The lack of seasonal workers was an important topic of discussion. Bollestad: “This is a significant problem for agriculture and it is therefore my top priority that we must quickly find good and concrete solutions in the form of alternative workers. Agriculture is facing a labour-intensive period, so we have no time to waste. ”
750 working hours are missing
Erik Kjøs is a potato and onion grower in Løten, near Hamar. He grows about 15 percent of the total number of Norwegian onions. Kjøs says he is missing 750 working hours to run normal production. Kjøs: “If we don't get it done, there will be fewer onions in the fall. The consequences are that we have to get people from elsewhere. We are missing about 750 working hours, which must now be filled by family, neighbours and other people who have time. ”
He would like to use people who have been fired: “The question is whether they can come. I don't know what happens when they start working here, do they no longer receive benefits or salary, for example? I hope there is something to be found, because there are enough people. ”
According to Minister Bollestad, this should be arranged with the parties within the labour market: “That is why I will quickly meet with the organisations within the labour market and the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Røe Isaksen to see how we can solve the agricultural situation. ”