Moldovan winegrowers are ready to increase salaries for seasonal workers for fast and high-quality harvesting


Moldovan winegrowers are ready to increase salaries for seasonal workers for fast and high-quality harvesting

03.09.2020

Some growers would like to pay about 1 lei per kilogram of grapes harvested from vineyards like Pergola

According to the representatives of the regional associations of table grape producers, at the start of the mass harvest, the bulk of the vineyards offer seasonal workers a salary in the range of 250-300 lei per day – at the last year’s level. However, individual farms – especially those with intensive vineyards such as Pergola and Gable – are willing to talk to day laborers about raising wages or changing pay methods to improve the speed and quality of harvesting.

At the beginning of the agricultural season, heads of horticultural agricultural enterprises hoped that in 2020 the urgency of the problem of an acute shortage of labor for carrying out “manual” operations in orchards and vineyards would slightly decrease. Firstly, tens of thousands (and more than a hundred thousand) of labor migrants returned to the country due to socio-economic restrictions in connection with COVID-19. Farmers hoped that these people would not only stimulate domestic demand for food, but also join the army of seasonal workers. Optimists even predicted the emergence of competition in the labor market during the harvest campaign. Secondly, in almost all fruit-growing segments, yields decreased compared to last year’s level, which implied a decrease in the need for the number of workers.

Read also: Opinion: a “window of opportunity” will open for Moldovan plum processors

In reality, a completely different picture emerges. The heads of many agricultural enterprises note that “migrants are a very difficult category of workers, their negotiability is low.” These people are already accustomed to a different level of wages, moreover, “being here, at home, they are extremely reluctant to comply with the labor regulations that were the usual norm for them in the European Union”.

In addition, in the current season, the inconsistency of the method of remuneration of day laborers – a fixed amount per shift has appeared. More or less acceptable labor productivity can be achieved only by those agricultural farms that manage to recruit a significant number of employees under a contract for the entire period of the harvesting campaign. In other cases, labor productivity is very low. As the heads of the farms say: “several times lower than in the European Union or the United States.” As a result, in the structure of the cost of sweet cherry, labor costs averaged 25-30%, plums – up to 40-50%.

Attempts to replace the fixed payment for a change with a payment from production – about 3 lei ($ 0.18) per kilogram of cherries harvested, 1.3-1.5 lei ($ 0.07-0.08) per kilogram of plums – have not been very successful. If the output increased, then the quality often decreased – the products were poorly sorted.

Some growers would like to pay about 1 lei per kilogram of grapes harvested from vineyards like Pergola, which, if done correctly, would allow the pickers to earn about 40-50 euros per shift. However, table grapes require a thorough primary sorting, removal of spoiled berries (in RM, this process is usually carried out not before, but during the harvesting process). The correct layout of products in boxes is also necessary. And it is quite difficult to keep track of the quality of work of the day-workers who are paid for each kilogram of products.

In the meantime, winegrowers need to rush to hire enough harvesters. If it rains in September, the berries will begin to crack, the quality of products will decrease, and the need for sorting will increase.

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