The agricultural sector has always been a generator of employment in Spain, and the coronavirus pandemic has made this even clearer in the face of the massive loss of jobs in other sectors, such as hospitality, tourism or commerce, whose employees have sought job opportunities in the field.
In fact, over 106,000 people and more than 37,000 job applications have been registered in a collaborative and non-profit platform launched by ASAJA, "given the need and urgency of many agricultural producers" to find workers, as explained by Juan Almansa, general coordinator of the agrarian organization. And these figures continue to grow.
Fruit, among the most affected sectors
Despite the initiatives launched by the various agrarian organizations and entities in order to provide seasonal workers to the agricultural sector, the fruit sector is one of the most affected by the lack of labor.
Workers are still needed for the chilli pepper and garlic campaigns in the Basque Country, for the asparagus season in Navarra, for the harvest of open-ground vegetables and the remaining citrus in Valencia and Murcia, for red fruits and garlic in the area of Huelva, Córdoba, Cuenca and Badajoz, for cherries in the Jerte Valley and for stone fruit in the Ebro Valley.
"We continue to see a need for labor," said Óscar Moret, co-head of the fruit sector at UAGA in the region of Aragon, where around 23,000 people are employed each year (around 15,000 workers for the harvest and close to 8,000 for packaging plants).
Also, the sector foresees "further problems to find laborers in May and June." In part, this will depend on the de-escalation in other sectors, such as hotels and restaurants. "There are immigrants who have come from other sectors to work in agriculture" who could return to their usual activities when those sectors reopen, says Moret.
30% cost increase
Providing accommodation for day laborers, offering training to new workers or obtaining personal protective equipment to guarantee worker safety are factors that are increasing labor costs this campaign. In fact, the sector estimates that costs will increase by 30% compared to previous campaigns.