Friday, January 1st, 2021
No asparagus without helpers
Farmers prepare for difficult harvest season
The adversities of the corona pandemic determine the growing season that starts in spring again this year. Once again, farmers expect significantly fewer helpers from abroad, so that compromises have to be made with some products. Nevertheless, the industry is confident.
The farmers in Germany are already preparing for the start of the growing season and the employment of harvest workers under special corona conditions. In 2020, around 30,000 harvest workers from Eastern Europe were flown in, some of them extra, said the President of the Bavarian and Vice President of the German Farmers' Association, Walter Heidl. In the new year at least as many helpers will be needed. "I am assuming a similar procedure again."
In normal years ten times as many harvest workers were employed nationwide, in Bavaria alone there were well over 30,000. Heidl warned if it should not be possible to employ enough workers from abroad due to the ongoing Corona crisis, harvests could spoil or some plants in the fields or in the greenhouses could not even be planted.
The first helpers are asked early in the year. "As soon as the ground warms up in spring, the field work begins." Right at the front are asparagus and strawberries. There were problems here in 2020, in some places asparagus could not be harvested at all.
Good experience last year
The farmers are in the process of ensuring the conditions for use under renewed strict hygiene rules. Some of the accommodations are being improved in order to allow the necessary distance. Basically, the experience of the 2020 season has shown that the requirements can be met. "It worked very well." There have only been a few corona outbreaks among harvest workers.
Some farmers are also adjusting to the situation in the upcoming season with a changed cultivation concept. "Some farmers have already made the decision whether to continue growing certain crops at all." With hops, asparagus or wine as perennial plants, it is difficult to switch. Some cucumber farmers, however, are considering whether they should even rely on pickling cucumbers this year – because the harvest is practically impossible to manage without helpers.
Certain products are also less in demand. "The fresh market in the direction of gastronomy has suffered with the Corona requirements," said Heidl. This applies in particular to asparagus and French potatoes. In view of the lack of helpers from abroad, farmers tried this year to fill the gaps with volunteers from within Germany, such as students or people on short-time work. However, it was often said that they were willing but inexperienced and that they were often not used to the hard work in the field.