The lack of laborers in the province of Huelva and the restrictions on the mobility of people, both European and from third countries, caused by the health crisis of COVID-19, have made it almost inevitable for berry producers to be forced to abandon part of the crops; in fact, some are already doing it.
At the same time, the consumption of berries has fallen considerably, while production is in full swing, which results in the supply being greater than the demand.
Faced with this situation, the agrarian organizations have asked for support from the administrations to facilitate the search for laborers. Interfresa has issued this request to the Government Sub-delegation in Huelva and to the Council of Employment of the Andalusian Government, and Freshuelva has done the same with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The manager of Freshuelva, Rafael Domínguez, reports that the harvesting rate of strawberries has been slowed down due to the lack of laborers and that part of the production remains in the plants. Domínguez says that producers are currently resorting to shipping their fruit to the processing industry. If it becomes difficult for growers to do this, they will immediately abandon part of their crops.
The manager of Freshuelva points out that the bulk of the strawberry production for the processing industry is usually harvested in May and June, which gives an idea of this campaign's exceptional situation. "Fruit is going to the industry two months earlier than usual and crops are being abandoned," he says.
Regarding consumption, Domínguez says that the situation is causing a reduction in the sale of fruit in small stores and municipal markets. Furthermore, the closure of restaurants and street markets has made things worse. All this translates into significant losses for the sector. Most of the sales correspond to supermarket chains, which in normal conditions account for 50% of the total volume, and which do not have the capacity to compensate for the loss of other sales channels.
Also, the consumption of berries, like that of other products, has been reduced across Europe, and the fact that trucks are returning empty has increased the cost of exporting to EU countries.
Given this scenario, Freshuelva has asked the Government for credit measures and tax exemptions like those granted to other sectors.