The fruit and vegetable campaign in the Region of Murcia is in full swing in April and May, when around 90,000 people are employed in fields and warehouses. However, this year the region will have problems to cover this demand for employment as a consequence of the current transport restrictions, in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as the closing of borders, which prevents the hiring of workers at origin.
According to the head of COAG in Campo de Cartagena, Vicente Carrión, this campaign there will be 40% fewer workers. He also said that day laborers normally travel in vans or private vehicles, in which now only 2 or 3 people can travel, depending on the model. Furthermore, many of these workers do not have a driving license. Moving these workers by bus, which can carry up to 18 passengers, would mean mobilizing a huge fleet of about 2,000 buses, with the consequent economic cost.
He also said that "the situation is going from bad to worse as the days go by, given the tight schedules." For example, "the potato campaign is about to start, there are still lettuce, broccoli, citrus and other greenhouse products to be harvested, and at the same time, the stone fruit campaign is starting in the Vega Media with the thinning, which is also very labor intensive. And there's also the melon and early watermelon plantations."
For this reason, the agrarian organizations have asked about the possibility of employing people whose jobs have been temporarily suspended to make up for the lack of laborers, mainly in the sectors most affected by the closure of businesses, namely the hospitality, tourism and trade industries.
However, the person in charge of COAG in Campo de Cartagena acknowledged that "fear may cause some people to back out of leaving the house," which would make hiring difficult. For this reason, he stressed that it is very important to guarantee protection and safety measures."