Asparagus growers in Germany have a major problem finding seasonal workers. Those who regularly come from Central and Eastern Europe currently work in their own country. According to Miriam Adel of the Association of Asparagus Producers in Franconia, "the situation is very difficult this year". Manufacturers in Bavaria found seasonal workers almost at the last minute. "It has gotten worse over the past five years, Adel explains." The number of employees from Poland has fallen drastically. "Only 10 years ago, only Poles worked on Bavarian asparagus plantations. Today they are rare – explains Miriam Adel.
Hans Lehar, director of the cooperative fruit and vegetable trade (OGA) from Bruchsal in Baden-Wuerttemberg, also has similar experiences. He knows the cases of breeders who, despite the announcements, have not received seasonal workers from Eastern Europe. Everything indicates that in the future you will have to pay more attention to non-EU employees.
In the opinion of the OGA head, minimum wages are also a problem. The rise in labor costs is difficult to offset by income. "We won't get 40-50% higher prices on the market," he explains, putting pressure on producers. "In Spain and Portugal the minimum wages are much lower.
According to Hans Lehar, the minimum wages and the lack of seasonal workers can greatly reduce asparagus cultivation in Germany in the coming years by a maximum of one third of the area. It has also been warned by the Staatsboerenbond of Baden-Württemberg and the Association of Asparagus and Strawberry Producers from Southern Germany.
The Bavarian Ministry of Agriculture is well aware of the problems of breeders when it comes to searching for seasonal workers. Those from Eastern Europe have a lot to choose from. They mainly look for better-paid jobs that do not require heavy physical work or in sectors that offer year-round work. Moreover, the supply on the domestic labor markets has improved in many countries. In Romania, for example, the car industry currently offers great employment opportunities.
To purchase seasonal workers, the German employment office maintains regular contact with non-EU countries. As the agency spokesman assured "specific bilateral discussions with foreign employment offices have already taken place at the beginning of 2019 and the first decisions have been taken". However, there are many things to explain and it takes time.
According to data from the Federal Statistical Office, 129.6 tonnes of asparagus were harvested in 2018 in Germany, most in Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia. The average German eats about 1.42 kg of asparagus per year. Last week a kilo of asparagus costs an average of seven euros.
(DPA / jar)