The European Fresh Produce Association (Freshfel) has urged the immediate implementation of EU-wide measures to ensure the movement of goods and critical agricultural workers in the bloc.
Freshfel says it strongly supports the consensus among Member State Ministries on the need to guarantee the integrity of the Single Market, which is a crucial issue for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector. To translate this agreement into practice, it say it's "essential" that EU capitals implement the European Commission's practical guidance on the EU green lanes with a matter of urgency to ensure that highly perishable fresh produce crosses internal EU borders in a maximum timeframe of 15 minutes.
Freshfel Europe would also like to highlight the discussion during the Informal Council meeting on the need for free movement of seasonal workers within the EU and also from neighboring countries. This is a "critical matter" for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector’s immediate future, the organization said in a release. It urges Member State Ministries to take immediate and coherent action to secure the availability of professional workers for the upcoming harvests.
"The fruit season is also beginning which requires a complete seasonal workforce. This is an urgent matter to resolve as for some products the season is advanced by a number of weeks due to weather conditions over the past months," the organization says.
Freshfel also urges EU capitals to continue to welcome seasonal workers from other EU and neighboring countries on a formal manner, saying this critical staff is necessary to ensure food security in Europe during the Covid-19 outbreak. These measures should be accompanied by strong medical supervision of incoming workers, which should be harmonized across Europe.
Furthermore, support from Member State governments should be envisaged to secure safe transport, work and accommodation of these workers, it said. In addition, Freshfel underlined the role and work of the European Commission so far to guarantee the supply of fresh produce to EU citizens and requests that any new measures, including on seasonal workers, are implemented with a pan-European approach that prevents distortion of competition between growers.
It also wants to warn Member States that the imposition of unilateral bans on the entry of professional seasonal workers from one or several Member States to another will deeply undermine the ability of growers to harvest fresh produce.