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The agricultural industry faces a workforce shortage

An article devoted to the current situation in the agricultural sector in Russia was recently published in the Kommersant newspaper. The COVID-19 pandemic has already had an impact on domestic berry and vegetable producers as they have encountered difficulties with harvesting under the influence of scarce manpower. The shortage of workforce is caused by the prohibition on foreign nationals to enter the country and restriction of people’s movements around the country. Similar difficulties are soon to be faced by horticulturists. There will be simply no one left to harvest the crops.

Elena Filonenko, the HR Director of ECO-Culture agricultural holding, was invited by the authors of the article to comment on the situation.

To illustrate the crisis, the writers cited the official letter of berry producers to Deputy Head of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture Dzhabulat Khatuov. According to the farmers, every year they attract seasonal workers from foreign countries to work in berry plantations; however, since March 18, such individuals have not been allowed to enter the country. The problem cannot be solved with the efforts of local residents only, as many farms are located far from settlements, and it takes at least 20 people to harvest one hectare of berries.

The berry harvesting season in the south of the country starts in mid-April, while in other regions the farmers are expected to experience workforce shortages in early June. If the situation is not changed, it will be possible to harvest at best a fifth of the yield, with the industry itself losing about 1.5 billion rubles in revenue.

The problem affected not only berry enterprises but also vegetable producers. Elena Filonenko reported to the Kommersant newspaper that hundreds of potential employees of the agricultural holding were unable to get to greenhouses from other regions of Russia due to imposed restrictions on the movement of citizens. This has already caused serious financial losses, since the period of active harvesting of the greenhouse crops is now in progress.

The Russian Ministry of Agriculture, in response to the producers’ letter, claimed that they were already working on the issue of workforce shortage with regional agricultural management structures.

The authors of the article also add that the lack of workers is not the only problem of the agricultural complex related to COVID-19. For example, in Krasnodar Krai, legal entities suffer from the restrictions on the issue of permits. Thus, hundreds of employees simply cannot go to work because of the absence of an official permit. And in some regions, according to the head of the Ministry of Agriculture D. Patrushev, there are difficulties with the transportation of fertilizers, seeds, and spare parts for agricultural machinery.

For the full text of the article, please see the issue No. 63 of the Kommersant newspaper.