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Fruit and vegetables jammed by truckers' strike in Italy

The hauliers' protests, which began in Sicily and the Puglia region on Monday 21 February with spontaneous blockades of loading/unloading and handling of goods, also seem to be expanding to other Italian regions and are having their first effects on supplies. The cause of the strikes are fuel price increases, but also all other costs related to the sector.

"Normally at this time of the year we have more than 200 people working between the fields and the warehouse for the harvesting and processing of strawberries and citrus fruits, but because of the strikes we were forced to send more than 70% of the staff home. There is no point in harvesting the fruit if the goods are not shipped. Unfortunately, we cannot meet the agreements made with national and international customers", said Giuseppe Zuccarella of the OP Zuccarella cooperative in the province of Matera.

Giuseppe Zuccarella  

"We already have a large quantity of strawberries and citrus fruits in the cooling cells. These volumes were supposed to be shipped to many Italian supermarkets at the beginning of the week, but above all to European markets such as the Netherlands, Germany and France. We cannot store more fruit in the warehouses, as otherwise we run the risk of having to throw it all away, precisely because these are perishable goods. We prefer to leave the crops on the plants, at least now that the weather seems to be on our side."

"Until last weekend, everyday about 10 tons of strawberries of different varieties and 25 tons of oranges were delivered to the markets, both in Italy and in Europe. Now we are forced to leave the fruit unharvested until the shipments resume. And in the meantime we have to hope that our customers don't turn to foreign competitors. If the strike lasts a few more days, things will become even more difficult and further price increases are imminent."

The strike of the Sicilian carriers has been described by many as savage, but now we are seeing the first rumors of a possible unblocking of the situation. On Tuesday evening (22/02/2022) it was rumored that fruits and vegetables (as well as other goods) could be loaded again. The regional government has allocated €10 million to support Sicilian road hauliers for whom cost increases have become unsustainable.

Industry representatives estimate a 30% total cost increase due to more expensive fuel, tolls and raw materials. For example, in the case of crossing the Strait of Messina, there is a tariff increase of €10 per meter. That is the increase recorded by the shipping companies for trucks with trailers, as they too are facing cost increases.

"We are becoming tired of having to answer countless phone calls and having to explain to our customers that the delays do not depend on us," said Patrizia Calabrese of cooperative Fonteverde from the Sicilian province of Ragusa.

"This protest is absurd because it affects only one section, and perhaps the most vulnerable section of the country. The only result is that our economy is knocked down. We understand very well the frustrations and the reasons of the strikers, because also us growers are hit hard by the cost increases, but this is not the right way to protest. We have to work hard anyway to be a reliable partner for our customers at all times, which is really not at all easy with repeated extreme weather conditions and for not having a proper transport connection between our island and the destination markets," continued Patrizia Calabrese.

"Our job is not only to provide quality products, but also to offer reliable and timely deliveries. The damage to our image in this area is colossal. Many of our customers in Italy and abroad will now place their orders with suppliers from other areas of the Mediterranean. Moreover, those foreign customers who still want Sicilian products may choose to arrange their own shipping - since we are unable to do so - and turn to other Italian or foreign agencies. This protest, no matter how you look at it, is affecting only the Sicilian economy," concluded Patrizia Calabrese.

Giorgio Puccia

“As a consequence of this strike, the fruits and vegetables are in the warehouse waiting to be thrown away," said Giorgio Puccia, AGF commissioner at the wholesale market of Vittoria, in the province of Ragusa.

"The crops will not be able to stay on the plants for long. The damage is already huge and will only increase. Thousands of Sicilian businesses are being dragged into an abyss. The protest only affects our businesses, because fruits and vegetables from every possible country of origin are now entering Italy."

Ernesto Fornari, director of Apofruit

"As of today we have 50 tons of strawberries in stock in Basilicata and we don't know when we can deliver them," said Ernesto Fornari, director of Apofruit in Cesena. "The strike is affecting the major growing regions in the south of the country, namely Basilicata, Apulia and Sicily. We have incredibly large quantities of leafy vegetables stuck in Sicily. We ask the government to do something immediately and quickly, by convening a ministerial meeting and paying attention to the complaints of the hauliers. We understand very well the problems of the logistics sector, but we must unblock the situation immediately".

The road hauliers' protests are also affecting the Lazio region, particularly Fondi, in the province of Latina.

"For several days a large group of drivers has been blocking the entrances to the wholesale market in Fondi," announced the manager of an Italian logistics company. "They are protesting against the price increase of fuel, tolls, tires and energy. No one can enter or leave the wholesale market, which is having a negative impact on the trading companies located there and on the cultivation companies that can no longer dispose of their product in that area. This is an unauthorized strike, and the traders and growers are the ones who are suffering. The situation could be easily resolved by asking the companies for a small increase in transport costs; an extra 10 euros would be enough."

Authors: Vincenzo Iannuzziello, Gaetano Piccione, Cristiano Riciputi, Lorena L. Reale