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.
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…
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