2022 SPECIALTY CROP AUTOMATION REPORT
workers are increasingly choosing not to take up agricultural labor. 66
As younger generations increasingly choose other professions over the agriculture industry and seasonal labor continues to be unreliable, European farmers will need increased automation capacity to grow or even retain their current production levels. Indeed, with the continued migration of certain crops out of some European countries, the economics of supporting services for these crops will become unfeasible. This will further drive crop production out of the region, as has happened in select Californian counties. In addition, rising minimum wages in the EU have caused a shift in production to Turkey as well as Northern Africa, driving up imports of specialty crops. Automation will be key to mitigating these risks and enabling EU growers to keep specialty crop production within Europe. The status of automation within the European specialty crop industry is discussed further in Chapter 5.
Imports of seasonal agricultural labor are subject to many uncontrollable variables, such as regulatory changes, geopolitical conflict and, most recently, pandemics. The unreliability of seasonal labor was displayed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when significant parts of Europe’s harvest, especially in Western European countries, was lost because travel restrictions and closed borders prevented the importation of labor. As an example, an asparagus farmer in Germany typically relied on a labor force of 170 mostly Romanian workers for his harvest. But he was unable to secure even half that number when borders were closed. 67 U.K. growers also experienced the unreliability of season- al labor in the aftermath of Brexit. Government policy on seasonal labor resulted in local cucumber growers experi- encing a 40 percent shortfall in workers, which prompted a number of them to sell their land. 68
66 Size and Composition of the US Agricultural Workforce, 1950-2000 | USDA 67 Migrant Farmworkers Whose Harvests Feed Europe Are Blocked at Borders | New York Times, March 2021 68 ‘Cucumber capital’ growers selling up as Brexit and energy crisis hits Britain’s vegetable industry | The Guardian, September 2022
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