The Corona situation has created great uncertainty among the country's fruit and vegetable centres ahead of this year's season. The danger of importing infections and strict infection control rules make it very uncertain whether Norwegian farmers can get the seasonal workers who have previously come from Lithuania and Vietnam.
The alternative is to hire Norwegian seasonal workers but many farmers are reluctant to do so. There have been several media reports lately with farmers who had a bad experience with it last year. Many people are considering reducing the area or cutting out berry production completely.
According to the latest figures from NAV, just over 200,000 unemployed are now registered in Norway. The authorities want agriculture to recruit among these for this year's season. Among other things, they have made reductions in the unemployment benefit scheme so that the laid-off will not lose money by working. The Storting has also allocated NOK 1 billion for the training of laid-off and unemployed people.
This does not solve the basic problem for the fruit and vegetable industry and that's the low price. The prices of fruit, berries and vegetables are based on the use of cheap seasonal labour from abroad. If Norwegian seasonal workers are to harvest what is grown in Norway, agriculture must first and foremost be able to offer competitive wages. Farmers need predictability, and the best way to ensure this is prices that are commensurate with labour costs.
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