Opening of the borders, 150 thousand laborers can return to Italy

The end of the European lockdown will bring the workers back to the fields. the wish of Coldiretti who comments positively on the reopening of borders from June 3 without the need for quarantine for European and Schengen citizens, while for non-EU citizens it will be necessary to wait for June 15. The farmers’ association estimates that around 150,000 seasonal EU workers from Romania, Poland and Bulgaria and other European countries who have been hitherto blocked due to the pandemic can now return to Italian fields, a large part, therefore, of the approximately 250,000 lost laborers in recent months due to the pandemic. It is – explains the president of Coldiretti Ettore Prandini – a decision that allows to guarantee professionalism and experience to Italian agricultural businesses thanks to the temporary involvement of the same people who cross the border every year for seasonal work and then return to their country. Our agricultural companies are already working to accompany the transfer of European workers from their countries of origin to Italy. A little less than half of the seasonal foreign workers employed in agriculture come from the European Union, where over time they have built trust relationships with businesses. According to the association’s estimates, 107,591 are Romanians, 13,134 Poles and 11,261 Bulgarians, out of 370 thousand regular workers who come from abroad every year.

Bad weather damages cherries

If the problem of the lack of laborers in the fields, thanks also to the new regularization starting from June 1, could soon be mitigated, the latest storms and hailstorms are mowing the crops. The last one, in order of time, that of cherries, at the end of a spring which, according to Coldiretti’s estimates, caused more than one in three fruit to be lost from peaches to nectarines to apricots. From a monitoring by Coldiretti it emerges that the last storms in Puglia, where 40% of the national cherry harvest takes place, have also damaged the cherries of the Ferrovia variety in Puglia after having mowed up to 90% the harvest of the first fruits Bigarreau and Georgia. At national level, an estimated peach and nectarine production is reduced by 28% for a harvest of almost 820 thousand tons which places Italy in Europe after Spain. Italy, however, remains the leading apricot producer with 136 thousand tons, a quantity that more than halved compared to last year (-56%). The risk – according to Coldiretti – that a reduced availability of national fruit causes a marked increase in imports from abroad to be passed off as made in Italy but also a rise in consumer prices as evidenced by the 7.8% increase recorded by Istat in May.

The development of robots and drones

Both the coronavirus emergency with the lack of laborers and the increasingly marked need to safeguard crops have pushed the agricultural sector in recent months to accelerate the technological change. With the use of crop-saving robots or drones that check the status of crops in flight, up to computerized surveillance systems for irrigation and fertilizers. Without forgetting the use of technological traps against harmful parasites to the blockchain for the traceability of food up to the digital personal shopper in the cart. According to Coldiretti, the technological breakthrough in agriculture 4.0 is worth over 450 million euros, as quantified on the occasion of the Innovation Day organized in collaboration with Filiera Italia and Bonifiche Ferraresi, dedicated precisely to technological innovations from field to table that help the country to get out of the health emergency. Within two years, precision agriculture 4.0, Coldiretti underlines, aims to involve 10% of the cultivated area by developing applications increasingly suitable for national productions; ranging from production and quality optimization to the reduction of company costs, from the minimization of environmental impacts with seeds, fertilizers, agrochemicals up to the cutting of the use of water and fuel consumption. With a 22% growth in a year, Coldiretti points out on the basis of the Smartagrifood Observatory, investments in new technologies in the sector focus in particular on production monitoring and control systems (49%), on equipment and management software ( 34%) and on surface mapping technologies and data collection for decision support (14%). The evolution of work in the fields has led to the creation of Demetra, the first integrated system for online management of the company with real-time reading of the state of health of crops, data on weather and temperature forecasts, soil fertility and water stress . New digital technologies are strategic to start from a present that has to deal with Covid-19, an emergency that has also made it discover its importance, concludes Prandini, specifying that the commitment now to accelerate the digital transition of the made in Italy agri-food sector, promoting the distinctiveness and identity of our products and territories with the right professional figures within companies.