Asparagus harvest may be affected by Coronavirus

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

The thought of a German spring without any fests is sad indeed, but we’re doing what needs to be done. Now it seems another joy of the season of rebirth and renewal might be under threat. This is the time of year when the king of all German vegetables, the glorious white asparagus, begins pushing its light-deprived shoots from the mounds in which they thrive. But who’s there to harvest the bounty of the season?

In most years, the freedom of work and movement laws of the European Union have meant that seasonal agricultural workers, the majority of whom hail from Poland, Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe, could seamlessly cross country borders to engage in the strenuous work of harvesting the asparagus. Some workers were hesitant to enter Germany in the time of Coronavirus at the outset, and now, even those that are willing to come over and depend on harvest time as a way to boost their incomes are finding the sudden closure of borders an obstacle to reaching the farms that are so dependent on their labor.

While there’s talk about the possibility of workers from restaurants and other parts of the catering industry who’ve found themselves jobless almost overnight heading for the fields, there seems to some doubt as to just how well-suited they’d be to this physically demanding work in which they have no experience. Another way forward that’s up for discussion is to arm the foreign workforce with documents clearing their ways through the otherwise closed borders.

Other beloved spring crops such as strawberries and rhubarb could likewise be threatened by the labor shortage. So what’s on the table for German farmers, workers and consumers? Will potential workers choose fieldwork over staying at home through the crisis? Or will out-of-class students step in to fill the void? Time will tell.

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