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Strawberry fields are being abandoned due to labor shortage

Strawberries are left on plants because the staff engaged in harvesting is not enough to cover all the cultivated areas in the southern Italian Metapontino area. Temperatures are also rising.

"After quitting the first 2 hectares of the early variety Fortuna about 20 days ago, I am now forced to repeat this difficult choice, with the difference that, this time, the areas left behind are precisely the fields of Sabrosa-Candonga, Basilicata's leading strawberry cultivar and highly appreciated by the markets," said Ermal Gjuzi, a young farmer from Scanzano Jonico, with about 6 hectares invested in strawberries.

Abandoned strawberry fields of the Sabrosa-Candonga variety

"With the problem of labor shortage, you have to decide which plot to carry on, after you have invested time and money for many months. In just a few days, I abandoned 2.5 hectares of Sabrosa-Candonga because I can't keep up with the crops. Higher temperatures and more light are accelerating the ripening process; this makes it complex to harvest all the fruit before it becomes no longer suitable for sale."

"Every year, as the season draws to a close, the availability of labor is drastically reduced because many workers move to the stone fruit fields for thinning and fruit picking. This time, however, it seems that the shortage of laborers is really critical. Compared to the past, there is also a shortage of foreign laborers, who prefer to stay in their home countries, partly because of salary increases."(Pictured at side: strawberry orchards abounded).

"I expect to end the strawberry season around 25 May, assuming my current employees will allow me to do so. It has become somewhat of a routine that someone is not on roll every day, although the compensation is higher than in past years and the working hours do not go beyond 6 hours and 30 minutes. However, one thing is certain, and that is that for the next campaign I will reduce the areas planted with strawberries and increase those dedicated to vegetables."

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