THIS week, the fruit picking season begins in earnest across Spain.
It is normally a time when the annual influx of migrant workers descend on the nation’s fields to harvest the country’s crops.
Usually, thousands of migrants travel from Northern Africa and Eastern Europe to Spain to work as day labourers, picking crops and helping with the winter harvest.
However this year, due to coronavirus and the closure of national borders, the agricultural industry has lost an estimated 75,000 workers.
In anticipation of the struggle, local and regional farming associations, with the backing of the Ministry of Agriculture, put out the request for extra help.
The Ministry amended current regulations to allow unemployed people and immigrants currently in the country to apply for work, but despite the push, the quota has still fallen well short.
Jaume Padros, of the Catalan union Unio de Pagesos, estimated that in his area of Catalonia alone, they are short of around 10,000 workers.
The recent employment push generated 12,000 applications but almost half will not be eligible to begin due to incorrect paperwork or the lack of accommodation due to the hotel closures.
“We have many job demands from the city of Barcelona, but many require accommodation which we cannot provide, and we have to ensure that they meet the conditions of safety and hygiene,” said Padros.
The closure of many tourist facilities such as the Port Aventura Theme Park in Tarragona has gone some way to ease the pressure, with laid off staff seeking alternative employment until the restrictions pass.
However the relocation of currently unemployed nationals do not make up for the 85% of workers that come from abroad.
“We are not going to make harvest this year, we still need hundreds of day labourers and the farmer will have to resign himself to losing part of the harvest,” explained Oscar Moret, member of the COAG agrarian organisation in Aragon and cherry farmer.
Regional governments are working closely with farming groups to help assist with the lack of infrastructure to accommodate those wanting to work, and a decision is expected within days.
The failure to meet a full harvest this season puts the already fragile Spanish agricultural sector under massive strain and further encourages buyers such as supermarkets with no other option to import from abroad.
But with border restrictions and difficulties in transportation, many businesses are in a very real danger of experiencing stock shortages until a solution is implemented.