Seasonal laborers are Norwegian farmers' main COVID-19 headache

The Norwegian insurance company, Frende Forsikring, commissioned Sentio to do a survey. Its results show that Norwegian growers are most concerned about sufficient foreign labor. Strict entry restrictions have been in place since 12 March 2020. The rules will be tightened even more in the next two weeks. The government has also indicated that these will likely apply for even longer. That's making growers uncertain about the new season.

Øystein Øren, who's responsible for agriculture at Frende Forsikring, says, "Farmers are worried about access to labor and that workers will get sick. The entry restrictions and quarantine rules concern them too. They're afraid of falling ill themselves and whether they can find solutions to these issues. Many of them work alone. They, therefore, have only themselves to depend on to get the work done."

Gartnerhallen is the largest fruit and vegetable growers cooperative in Norway. They've asked the Norwegian government to find a solution for the seasonal workers' problem before. The authorities have told growers to use Norwegians or workers from the EEA.

Norges Bondelag is the largest interest group for Norwegian farmers and growers. It affirms the survey's results. That's according to the group's manager, Astrid Solberg. "During the pandemic, we focused on the sectors, like the vegetable sector, that depends on migrant laborers. It's important to have good solutions for this. Because with such an uncertain future, growers struggle to, say, make large investments."

Also optimism
It's not all doom and gloom, though. There's positive news too, say both Øren and Solberg. Farmers and growers are noticing an increase in demand for their products. Food production continues as usual. And less border trade means more demand for milk and meat, for example. More Norwegians also realize how important local agriculture is for food security.


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