Labor shortage affects tomato farms in Puerto Rico

In “Escasez de mano de obra afecta finca de tomates en Santa Isabel,” Voces del Sur explains the difficulties for farms growing local produce in Puerto Rico and reaches out to find workers willing to do agricultural work.

The lack of manpower willing to work with vegetable crops has forced at least one farm in Santa Isabel to reduce the number of acres dedicated to growing tomatoes. According to the general manager of the Gargiulo farm, located in the coastal municipality of Santa Isabel, out of 800 acres dedicated to plant tomatoes in the past, currently, has been reduced to 280. “We have faced a loss of personnel, employees do not arrive, and the work is hard and requires a large number of pickers that we do not have; as a consequence, the number of acres planted has been reduced,” Fernández explained in written statements.

According to company projections, during the course of 2021 a production of 685,000 boxes of tomatoes is expected, from which they expect to export 50%–a practice that has also been affected after the passage of Hurricane María over Puerto Rico. Before the onslaught of this atmospheric phenomenon, the farm managed to export 70% of its production.

Given the situation, the designated Secretary of Agriculture, Ramón González Beiró, stressed that the government will seek to establish new agreements with different agencies to create strategies that are aimed at promoting agricultural work. “The labor shortage has been a constant challenge in the agricultural sector, and represents a fundamental part for the execution of our agribusinesses, affecting their production and marketing. We need to promote that more Puerto Ricans enter the world of agrarian labor,” commented González Beiró.

On his end, the administrator of the Family Socioeconomic Development Administration (ADSEF), Alberto Fradera, reminded people that workers in the agricultural sector are eligible to receive benefits from the Nutritional Assistance Program (or Programa de Asistencia Nutricional, PAN). “Currently, over 6,500 people who work in agriculture enjoy this benefit. If you are a seasonal worker, you don’t lose your benefits,” he stressed.

Anyone interested in working on the tomato picking can call 787-845-2530.

Translated from the Spanish by Ivette Romero. For original article, see https://www.vocesdelsurpr.com/2021/01/escasez-de-mano-de-obra-afecta-finca-de-tomates-en-santa-isabel/

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