More than three months after Spain declared a state of alarm, the country is adapting to the new normal. This transition won't be very hard for the intensive agriculture sector, which has been implementing standardized hygiene measures and safety protocols for years.
“There is no doubt that we are better off than at the beginning of all of this because now it's easier to find and buy personal protective equipment (PPE), especially gloves and masks, which was the most difficult thing to do in the first days of this crisis due to supply difficulties,” stated Andres Gongora, a producer and head of Fruit and Vegetables at Coag Spain and provincial secretary of Coag Almeria.
Gongora also said that the new normality coincided with the moment of least work in Almeria's intensive agriculture campaign, as the only spring-summer crops remaining are mainly melon and watermelon, and some vegetables such as peppers, tomato, short cucumber, and eggplant, which have lengthened their cycle but have a very scarce surface. In this sense, the focus is on the preparations for the next harvest, which facilitates the transition to this new situation.
According to the head of Coas, the post-COVID-19 era won't affect much the greenhouses' daily routine. "Using gloves, masks, and other protection and hygiene elements may seem distant for many people, but it's something very common among farmers," he said. "Intensive agriculture in Almería is used to fighting against plant viruses, changing gloves every so often, disinfecting tools to avoid contaminating plants, or placing disinfecting mats at the entrance to the farms," Gongora added. These are things that are now being applied to people's daily routines to avoid contagion. It's different in extensive agriculture, which on very few occasions has needed this type of measure for their jobs.
According to Gongora, the new situation won't affect the cost of labor in greenhouses, at least, in those of standard size, of around one hectare of surface, as most in the province are.
Costs, however, will increase the warehouses that prepare fruit and vegetable products, as many of them have more than a thousand workers per day. This means they will constantly have to replenish their PPE, invest in hydroalcoholic gels, as well as clean and disinfect their facilities, floors, and machinery several times a day, at least, at each shift change.