Thursday, August 24, 2006

With Fruit & Grape Harvests at Hand Less Labor is Available

06Hvst1-w.jpgTighter border security and heightened political wrangling over immigration reform are taking their toll on the California summer harvest labor supply.

California tree fruit and grape growers are moving into the peak harvest labor period with a workforce that has been chronically short 20 percent to 40 percent from last year, according to Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League.

The only thing that has saved growers from leaving fruit on the tree and vines is that the tree fruit and grape crops have been much lighter this season.

“We’ve been getting by with a significantly lower labor supply because the crops have been considerable smaller,” said Bedwel,l who heads an organization that represents more than 85 percent of the volume of fresh market table grapes and deciduous tree fruit grown in California. “For example, last year’s table grape crop was 96 million boxes. This year it is projected to be 80 million.”

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