The short­age of for­eign agri­cul­tural work­ers has many farm­ers, wine and olive oil pro­duc­ers wor­ried ahead of the 2020 har­vest in Italy.

In cer­tain areas, includ­ing the olive-pro­duc­ing dis­trict of Belice, Sicily, farm­ers are strug­gling to recruit the 4,000 for­eign work­ers usu­ally required to har­vest almost 18,000 hectares (44,500 thou­sand acres) of olive groves.

The har­vest­ing sea­son approaches and regional farm­ers will need for­eign work­ers. Some coun­tries where they come from, though, are con­sid­ered high-risk due to the pan­demic.– Alberto Cirio, pres­i­dent, Piedmont

Ninety per­cent of those work­ers are cur­rently unavail­able as the har­vest rapidly approaches. Some experts fear that many apples, grapes and olives may not be col­lected as a result.

Most observers attribute the labor short­age to the COVID-19 con­tain­ment mea­sures, which con­tinue to hin­der inter­na­tional travel. Workers com­ing from red-listed coun­tries can­not freely move to Italy for the har­vest. Others must first undergo com­plex pro­ce­dures that have so far kept the num­bers of incom­ing work­ers to a his­toric low.

See more: 2020 Harvest Updates

On top of the labor short­age, the Italian gov­ern­ment is also try­ing to crack down on ille­gal employ­ment in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

While the process has slowed down the entrance of for­eign farm work­ers to the coun­try, the gov­ern­ment argues that it is espe­cially nec­es­sary, given the cur­rency health cri­sis, to ensure a safe work­place for sea­sonal farm work­ers.

In recent weeks, more than 200,000 work­ers have filed for work autho­riza­tion from the Italian Ministry of Agriculture.

All of them now have a reg­u­lar work per­mit, includ­ing 13,000 for­eign cit­i­zens, who can now count on a legal green card,” Italian agri­cul­ture min­is­ter, Teresa Bellanova, said.

She added that the min­istry is also about to release a dig­i­tal net­work that helps work­ers find avail­able jobs and assists in arrang­ing trans­port.

While new funds have been directed to oil mills and olive oil pro­duc­ers hit by Xylella fas­tidiosa in the region of Puglia, the short­age and well­be­ing of sea­sonal work­ers is also a rel­e­vant issue for many local author­i­ties.

In the olive-pro­duc­ing dis­trict of Terlizzi, not far from Bari, the munic­i­pal coun­cil is offi­cially con­sid­er­ing a new approach to accom­mo­date migrant work­ers. City coun­cil­man Vito D’Amato empha­sized how most work­ers dur­ing the har­vest sea­son end up liv­ing in spon­ta­neous set­tle­ments, ghet­tos or tents in com­plete iso­la­tion.”

“[The pan­demic] has high­lighted their cru­cial role in agri­cul­ture,” he added. It is of the utmost impor­tance to rec­og­nize that role with safe­guards and real action.”

The migrant work­ers and the…

read more: www.oliveoiltimes.com

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