Chile's fruit growers wrestle with higher labor costs
Agriculture labor costs in Chile have increased up to 30% this season as unskilled laborers take jobs in earthquake reconstruction and move to cities for better opportunities, Chilean daily newspaper El Mercurio.
In 2010-11, workers are earning about US $32 per day, compared with an average of about US $25 last season. Wage increases vary by crop. For example, labor costs are up about 30% for cherries, 20% for apples and 14% for pears, the newspaper reported.
Part of that increase is due to the boom in blueberries, which has required more workers. Higher pay to harvest this crop puts pressure on growers of other fruits, such as grapes, apples and kiwis, to keep up, Ronald Bown, president of exporters group Asoex, is quoted as saying.
Many unskilled workers are also abandoning the countryside for the city.
“The 385,000 positions that were created this year have been mainly in the city,” said Antonio Walker, president of Chilean growers association Fedefruta, according to the newspaper. “To continue harvesting we have to raise salaries.”
Earthquake reconstruction has siphoned many workers from the fields as well, the newspaper reported. The Feb. 27 disaster occurred near Concepcion, in one of the country’s prime growing areas.