Foreign farm labourers in the fields in the province of Cosenza in Calabria | Photo: ANSA/ QUOTIDIANO DEL SUD
Foreign farm labourers in the fields in the province of Cosenza in Calabria | Photo: ANSA/ QUOTIDIANO DEL SUD

The Italian farmers' association Coldiretti raised an alarm following the latest government decree, warning that a vaccination mandate for those over 50 could put the harvest at risk. The measure would affect one out of every three workers in the farming sector, one-third of whom are foreigners.

The introduction of a vaccine mandate in Italy for those 50 and over could put the harvest at risk in the farming sector, the Italian farmers' association Coldiretti said on Thursday, January 6.

"The vaccination obligation for over 50s affects more than one worker in three, 34%, in farming, where there is a very high presence of foreigners from countries using vaccines that aren't recognized in Italy, with the concrete risk of harvest loss," Coldiretti said.

The government decree had been approved by the Italian Cabinet on December 5.

Foreign workers provide 29% of total work days

Data from the National Institute for Social Security INPS shows that there are over 350,000 agricultural workers over 50 years old out of the total of 1.046 million, making the category of 50-55 years the most numerous.

"On a national level, foreign workers, who have regularly found employment in agriculture, come from 155 different countries, providing 29% of the total working days necessary for the sector," Coldiretti said.

"In many cases these are countries in which the Russian Sputnik vaccine has been authorized, ...(and) there is no shortage of foreigners immunized with the Chinese Sinovac, both of which are not recognized in Italy and in Europe.

"With the full resumption of farming activities, it is therefore easy to anticipate an increased lack of laborers needed in the fields to guarantee food supply at a time when Covid has opened up a scenario of uncertainty, hoarding, and speculation, which pushes individual states into a race for essential goods such as energy and food."

Over 34,000 laborers in Puglia alone

In Puglia, the vaccination mandate would involve some 34,000 farm workers over 50. This represents more than a third (34%) of the total of 101,000 employees employed in the fields to guarantee the food supply, said Coldiretti.

Coldiretti President Ettore Prandini said in order to guarantee adequate labor coverage to save the crops, "tools must be adopted in agreement with the unions, that will allow social security beneficiaries, students and Italian pensioners to be able to temporarily engage in farm work."

He said there's the need for a professional training plan as well as measures to reduce bureaucracy and contain labor costs with radical simplification that can guarantee labour flexibility and timeliness, linked to the increasingly bizarre climate trend."


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