A survey carried out by the Federation of Fruit Producers of Chile, Fedefruta, reveals that the lack of workers for agricultural work, especially in fruit growing, is more serious than feared. The results indicate that more than half of the fruit producers have 50 to 70% fewer workers for the tasks in orchards or facilities.
"Most of the fruit growers that are currently harvesting fruit are in this range and if this situation continues up to September, we'll have a deficit of more than 150,000 workers for critical tasks,” stated the president of Fedefruta, Jorge Valenzuela.
According to the survey, the Maule Region has the greatest deficit of workers, with an average of 52%.
Almost half of the producers surveyed said that, due to the difficulty of having enough workers, they had to increase their average salary offer by 20% to 30%, and almost 28% of the interviewed said they had increased them by 40 to 50%.
The situation is particularly complex in the Coquimbo Region, where, even though producers increased the average remuneration offer by more than 50% because they needed labor for the citrus harvest, the shortage of personnel for these tasks was as high as 48.7%. "Producers in this area had to leave some fruit unharvested, which means they lost the work of an entire year," Valenzuela added.
When asked why it's been so difficult to get enough labor for agricultural tasks in these months, 92% of the interviewees said that workers feared losing the support they get from the state if they signed a work contract. That's why Fedefruta believes that it is key to design a campaign so that the population understands that they can work without giving up those benefits during the pandemic.
36% said there was a lack of foreign workers, due –among other factors– to the closure of borders due to the health alert. In addition, 28% said that workers couldn't leave their homes because they had to take care of their children, as they couldn't go to school.
20.3% said that there are workers and families who fear being infected. Finally, only 15% said they had problems due to the restriction of movement between quarantined communes and regions.
It is worrying that almost half of those surveyed (49%) estimated that, if the situation continues between now and the summer period, they will have to stop harvesting 20% to 30% of their production. 23% of those consulted said they would be unable to harvest 40% to 60% of their production.