Spain’s citrus industry is facing a severe shortage of workers to harvest the crop as the season gets into full swing. The delayed grape harvest, a rise in production of alternative crops like kakis and pomegranates and a partial recovery in the construction industry means there are around a third fewer workers available to harvest the crop, according employment agencies specialising in the provision of seasonal staff.
A report in Las Provincias said producers are facing daily difficulties and these are intensifying as each week goes by. With production estimated to be 27 per cent higher than last season, there are concerns that the situation will become more acute as the season progresses.
“The fruit is maturing, the European supermarkets are ramping up their programmes and shipments to the US and China are once again underway, all of which is putting increased demand on packers, who are not always receiving the required quantities,” the report said.
According to the newspaper, many immigrant workers from South America, eastern Europe and north Africa have returned home, while others are working in other sectors that offer more continuous employment and higher salaries.
The problem has been exacerbated by recent high temperatures causing a glut in vegetable production in Murcia and Almería, diverting workers to these regions. The olive harvest is also currently in full swing.
Enrique Mingacho from temporary worker agency Interim, estimates that there are at least 30 per cent fewer workers available, not just in Valencia but throughout Spain.
“Some producers acknowledge that low wages are at the heart of the problem and they are now reaping what they sow,” Mingacho said. “There has been a recovery in pay in other sectors of the economy and whoever has the opportunity to move is doing so.”