Italian farm group Coldiretti has warned that nearly 50,000 workers could be lost during a critical phase of the harvest. The association has called for new rules on non-EU migrant workers and an extension of stay permits.

The Italian farm group Coldiretti has released a report warning that, without a decree on migrant flows – a temporary plan on entry quotas for seasonal workers from outside the EU – and an extension of stay permits, nearly 50,000 workers could be lost during a critical phase of the season. The problems stem from restrictions on foreign laborers as well as bureaucratic hurdles preventing the use of Italian workers.

The Coldiretti report, “Labour and Borders in the Covid Era,” was released Monday on the occasion of the landing at the Pescara airport of the first task force of Moroccan citizens to work in fields in Abruzzo, Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna and Valle d’Aosta.

‘Critical situation’

The initiative on Monday, sponsored by Coldiretti, comes at a time when Morocco has suspended all flights with Italy, resulting in struggles for many businesses that can no longer count on their traditional collaborators. Coldiretti said limits on border crossings placed by many countries due to increasing Covid infections are complicating matters. “But the situation risks becoming even more critical if stay permits for workers already in Italy, which are expiring on April 30, aren’t extended,” it said.

“This problem involves over 30,000 farm workers who could be forced to return to their home countries right at the start of the fruit and vegetable harvest,” it said.

Risk of production losses

According to the organization, the danger is “the loss of production at a time in which it is important to ensure the Italian food supply, also due to difficulties in the commercial exchange of goods.” Coldiretti is calling for the extension of stay permits as well as for a speeding up of the issuing of the 2021 Migrant Flows Decree, which should bring another 18,000 non-EU workers to Italian fields.

Every year, selected migrant workers in Italy can apply to be regularized through the Flows Decree (Decreto Flussi), which sets the quota of non-EU citizens allowed to enter the country to work.

The decree is generally issued by the Interior Ministry at the start of harvest time.


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