Labor Shortages Hit Growers Worldwide

From New Zealand to France and England to the U.S., fruit and vegetable growers are grappling with shortages of workers to bring the crops home.


In April, New Zealand started its kiwifruit harvest, and needed thousands of seasonal workers. Growers were on edge, though they were able to get most of them from neighboring Pacific islands.

At least they didn’t have to go too far to find workers. French growers haven’t been so lucky. Last week, at the Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, CA, John Purcell, Monsanto Global Vegetables R&D Lead, told of a recent trip to the South of France. Curious about where the workers were coming from, he was told they were flown in from Ecuador, nearly 6,000 miles away.

Now come reports from the United Kingdom, where more than three-quarters of British berry growers are reportedly already scaling back production for this year.

According to an article in The Guardian, strawberry and other soft fruit farmers are warning of potential shortages because they are struggling to find enough workers to pick fruit.

The British Summer Fruits (BSF) trade body said its members were 10% to 15% short of labor and expect to be more than 30% short by the autumn as the government drags its feet on a seasonal agricultural workers scheme.

Nick Marston, the BSF chairman, told the newspaper: “The industry is now threatened by lack of government action with regard to seasonal labor.”

He said more than three-quarters of British berry-growers were already scaling back production and trimming investment plans amid fears that fruit would be left rotting in the fields.