According to Reuters, fresh fruit and vegetables will become increasingly scarce in Europe as the coronavirus pandemic hampers the global movement of produce and of the people needed to gather crops. Governments are looking at ways to ease any shortage, including “green lanes” to allow fresh produce to move quickly across European Union (EU) borders, recruiting a “shadow army” of harvesters, and loosening travel rules for migrant workers.
In Kenya, a major supplier of green beans and peas to Europe, half of the workers in the sector have been sent home on mandatory leave because of the industry’s inability to ship orders, even as demand from European retailers surges. Meanwhile, shipments from South Africa are becoming more challenging, with the country on a 21-day lockdown, which began on March 27.
A shortage of migrant and seasonal workers also threatens to disrupt production for several top European suppliers as borders shut down, preventing workers from traveling to where they are needed. There are additional challenges in moving the workers from accommodation to farms while maintaining social distancing.
Border restrictions introduced to stem the spread of the virus also disrupt the movement of produce within the EU, with traffic jams of up to 18 hours at some border points. The European Commission has urged the 27 EU countries to adopt measures to ensure the free flow of freight along “green lanes,” with border crossings lasting no more than 15 minutes.