Workers protest against exploitation in the city of Foggia in Italy's southern region of Puglia | Photo: archive/ANSA/Franco Cautillo
Workers protest against exploitation in the city of Foggia in Italy's southern region of Puglia | Photo: archive/ANSA/Franco Cautillo

A branch of the Italian Farmers' Association 'Coldiretti' in the southern Puglia region says there it is facing a serious shortage of workers. It has urged the national government to speed up the issuing of permits for workers from outside the EU.

The Puglia branch of the Italian farmers association Coldiretti has warned of a dire lack of labor in the fields of the region, saying that there are not enough workers for both cherry orchards and tomato fields. It cited 30,000 "workdays lost" as a result.

The association reported a "lack of Italian and foreign farm workers in the agricultural sector, which provides for an average of 1.2 million jobs, according to CREA data."

"Doing away with the requirement for the Green Pass (proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19) is saving agricultural harvests in Italy, which are ensured by the presence in the fields of foreign workers that had risked being blocked," said the Puglia branch of Coldiretti.

"(The move has eliminated the) burdensome bureaucracy and costs due to differing health regulations or the use in their home countries of vaccines such as Sinovac or Sputnik, which are not recognised in Italy. Now, however, it is necessary to speed up the necessary permits to enable non-EU workers, (...) to be able to arrive in Italy to work on farms as soon as possible.

"This is necessary to enable planning, given the growing difficulties of crossing borders following the pandemic."

Quarter of Puglia 'Made in Italy' products from foreign workers

"In Puglia over a quarter of food products come "from the hands of' foreign workers," the Farmers' Association said, noting that the "39,000 foreign workers provide 22.4% of the total days necessary for the sector in Puglia, where it is very difficult to get even Italian workers."

Coldiretti went on to say that "these are mostly workers on fixed-term contracts who arrive from abroad and that every year cross the border for the work season and then go back to their home country again, often establishing lasting professional relations as well as friendships with agricultural entrepreneurs.

The contribution of immigrant workers to Puglia agriculture is especially important in the harvesting of tomatoes, asparagus, and artichokes.

Coldiretti stressed that, "in this context, to sustain growth it is necessary to ensure the presence of workers in such a sector as agriculture, in which one out of every four products is harvested by foreign hands."

"The arrival of foreign workers in Italian fields is thus important to save the harvests and ensure food supplies to the population at a time that is especially sensitive with speculation, rising costs, a lack of some products, and blocks on exports due to the conflict in Ukraine and trade wars that have resulted."


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