Labour shortages already were a major issue; now the coronavirus is exacerbating the situation. "In the asparagus sector, border closures and the fear of the harvest workers, which is partly justified, simply mean that not enough people are arriving for the harvest. Companies that have started harvesting prematurely have a small advantage here and are partially supplied," says Matthias Kinzel from Strauss Verpackungsmaschinen. The company specialises in machines for harvesting, washing, sorting, weighing and packaging asparagus, apples and leeks.
"In the apples and leeks sector, our customers report that special shifts are currently being worked in order to cope with demand. This is certainly the case in other areas as well, as supply must be secured. The other side of the coin is asparagus. This noble vegetable is suffering from the loss of the catering trade and other sales sectors." This means the asparagus sector is once again under fire from several sides: "Despite the strong efforts of the growers, there are not enough workers to bring in the harvest and at the same time there are big question marks over some familiar sales channels. The catering trade, for example, is currently closed and has at most the possibility to deliver outside the company. In addition to the usual problems from the past years, for example due to the weather or the harvest yields, the virus and its dimensions are something else entirely."Peak activity in the company's hall so that all ordered machines can be delivered as quickly as possible.
He, like many others, sees a possible remedy for the German fruit and vegetable sector in the employment of people who are currently experiencing shortfalls in their sectors: "Closures in, among others, the catering trade, industry, commerce and universities is a problem for many. Temporary workers are also suffering. Through calls from the agricultural sector, some have already been able to offer support to regional farmers, which is urgently needed. A big hurdle for some, however, is the payment, which is usually lower than the earnings of some interested parties. But even a lower income is certainly a better option for some than not earning any money at all for an indefinite period of time.
Ready for transport
The machine manufacturer is working flat out to deliver outstanding machines to customers, at least in this respect, to make their work easier. "We are still well on schedule as far as our deadlines are concerned. Now our long-standing partnerships with sales and service partners in many countries are paying off. In view of the travel restrictions that severely restrict us, our service partners in the various countries are able to maintain service to the customer, even if sometimes with major restrictions themselves". In addition to the local contacts, there is also help via the service hotline, as well as mail and other channels for customer support. "We have recently, because of the situation, put a machine into operation via video chat."
The Strauss team at the stand at Fruit Logistica in February.
They were generally confident, but naturally concerned: "We are all in the same boat and have to adjust to this special situation every day. Our customers are quite understanding. Looking into the future, the economic consequences will be noticeable if, for example, investments are postponed after this standstill."
Representative for The Netherlands:
Op´t Root Landbouwmechanisatie
Herr Gerard Kempkens
6065 NP Montford, Niederlande
Tel.: +31 (0) 475 541 312
Representative for France:
Herr David Bergot
1A rue du fossé des Orphelins
67000 Strasbourg, Frankreich
Tel.: + 33 6 13 44 45 79