A farmworker in Puglia | Photo: ANSA
A farmworker in Puglia | Photo: ANSA

Nearly 30% of people working in agriculture in Italy are migrants and refugees, according to Italian farmers confederation Coldiretti. While most of them are farmworkers, there are reportedly 17,000 foreigners who own agricultural businesses in Italy too.

In Italy, 358,000 workers from 164 countries are employed in agriculture, Italian farmers confederation Coldiretti said in a statement released on Monday (June 20). This means that foreigners make up 29% of workers in the sector, Coldiretti said.

The confederation said that while most of the migrants and refugees employed in agriculture were employees with short-term contracts, a growing number of foreigners have become farm owners. They said that there were nearly 17,000 foreign businessmen and women in Italian agriculture.

Call for faster permits for migrant workers

In many agricultural districts, immigrant workers are part of the social and economic fabric, the organization argued. They cited the harvest of strawberries in the area of Verona, vines in Friuli and apples in Trentino, as well as fruits in Emilia Romagna and grapes in Piedmont as examples of this.

Coldiretti called for a faster release of permits to allow the arrival of non-EU workers who have already been admitted through a decree on migrant flows in Italy.

The organization claimed that companies are at risk of losing the work of an entire farming year due to red tape.

Compared to last year, Coldiretti said, the number of non-EU workers admitted to Italy by decree has risen -- to 69,000. However, only 42,000 had been admitted for the agricultural sector, despite a request for some 100,000 workers, the organization said.

Migrant farmworkers often facing exploitation

Earlier this month, Italy announced that it would increase its quotas for work migration in 2022.

While Italian agriculture relies heavily on foreigners, many migrant farmworkers in Italy face harsh working and living conditions -- in particularly undocumented migrants. Last week, local authorities and a farmworkers union in the southern Italian region of Basilicata signed a deal, aimed at preventing exploitation.


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