Vegetable growers looking to accelerate switch to mechanical harvesting

With Coronavirus adding to issues around labour availability, vegetable growers in key countries such as the UK, Spain and Germany are looking to accelerate the implementation of mechanical harvesting for their products – something that breeders say they are already working to facilitate.

Rijk Zwaan has asked its European chain partners, from growers to retailers, about the impact of the Coronavirus crisis on their business and their expectations for the future, and also used insights from third parties such as Rabobank and Nielsen. It is now sharing its findings with its customers to help them respond to changes in the supply chain.

One of the key changes identified by the survey is an increased focus on switching to mechanical harvesting, intensified by labour-related challenges. “European travel restrictions have caused a shortage of seasonal workers and social distancing is not possible in many horticultural work environments,” said the company, “Both of these factors have resulted in extra costs in the fresh supply chain. According to our research, labour is proving to be a particular problem for growers and processing companies in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, and it is also an issue in the organic sector. Many chain partners in Europe are not only concerned about labour, but also about a possible recession – especially due to the uncertainty about its severity and duration and how it will affect the demand for fruit and vegetables.”

Photo source: Rijk Zwaan

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