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US: 95% of people growing fruit & veg in Los Angeles are Latinos

Abraham Soria's workday begins when most people are going to bed. He gets dressed at midnight and leaves for the Los Angeles' wholesale market. At 1 o'clock in the morning he is sitting on his forklift, downloading fruits and vegetables from trucks.

"The product has to get to the restaurants and supermarkets in the morning," Soria, a resident of Downey, has been working in this industry for 23 years. "Most of the lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and oranges which we move, come from the fields of California," he said.

The people that work in this supply centre finish their tasks before noon. According to estimates there are around 500 employees that download, store, distribute, package, and sell the products to the consumers that visit Central Avenue.

"I have no end of the shift, because after I am here I go to the store to download goods", said Lamberto Quinteros, a driver who starts work at 2 o'clock in the morning loading boxes and packages with fresh products. "It requires a lot of effort, but is just like any job."

AT the beginning of the 80's, Tony Perez established himself in Southern California. He was born in Michoacan, Mexico and he is the owner of Rainforest Produce, a company that distributes onions, chilies, avocados, and limes, among other fruits. "We sell anything that people eat here," he said.

Perez has been working for 27 years in the industry and, according to him, nearly 95% of employees in the supply center are Hispanic, a market in which it is rare to see the faces of other ethnic groups, partly because of what he considers is a kind of hoarding.

"If we don't do this, someone else will do it because it is one of the few things that can't be avoided; you can stop buying shoes, but you can't stop eating," Perez said. "If you're not here, you won't know the people that move the food you'll buy the next day."

Every day, Jose Lopez transports fruits and vegetable to the Valley of Coachella. "My rooster fell asleep today," he said while packing 240 boxes of mangoes into his vehicle. "You have to come early, otherwise you won't find merchandise and some locals will already be closed."

It was about 10 o'clock in the morning. After loading the product, this Mexican immigrant that resides in the San Fernando Valley, drives for approximately two and a half hours to the city of Indio and its surroundings. There, he sells the products in the street with his family.

"All of my family does this, my son arrives later to take 100 boxes more," Lopez who was surrounded by boxes of fruit said. "I've been doing this since I arrived in 2001." I always go and return, I take pineapples, mangoes, and oranges. That's what people demand the most because it's a desert over there. There's none of this there," he added.

At 12:30 midday, the heat begins to intensify. The local stores start closing and the workers go to rest.

"This work isn't valued", said Bernardo Flores after delivering bags, boxes, and tags that are used for packaging agricultural products. "These are the people that work the most, they perform the most difficult tasks and they earn the least."

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