Since it is considered an essential sector to guarantee supplies to the population, the fresh-fruit-and-vegetable producing and exporting sector continued its productive and marketing activity after the state of alarm was decreed on March 14. Adapting to the exceptional nature of this situation has meant assuming the new safety requirements set by the health authorities for all workplaces and responding to changing consumption, which has caused critical situations for products such as strawberries, as demand decreased by 50% in the middle of the campaign, according to FEPEX.
In this month of state of alarm, the fruit and vegetable sector has adapted the work on farms and warehouses to the requirements established by the health authorities by implementing strict action protocols. Harvesting, handling, and packaging tasks have been slowed down by new measures that include the distancing of workers, among others, and mobility restrictions continue to make access to farms very difficult. These mobility restrictions are of particular concern, especially at this time when the stone fruit campaign is starting and the sector, which exported 1.04 million tons worth 1,086 million euro in 2019, is lacking workforce, the majority of which usually comes from other EU and non-EU countries. FEPEX Stone Fruit Committee has estimated that the sector will need more than 16,000 additional workers in April.
The fruit and vegetable sector is responding to national and international demand since 2/3 of the fruit and vegetable production is destined for export. According to FEPEX, consumption has been changing. There were very strong peaks in the week before confinement and in the subsequent one. Later, there was a decline in the consumption of many products, which has been especially serious for perishable products, such as the strawberry, as their harvest or marketing can't be postponed. Strawberry demand fell by 50% from mid-March to the end of the month, seriously affecting producers in Huelva, which are awaiting the approval of exceptional measures by the European Commission.