Masks, gloves and safety distance: how Spanish farmers are coping with coronavirus crisis

Spanish farmers are concerned about the coronavirus crisis, as the Iberian country is the second most affected EU member by the epidemics. Not only are they concerned by health issues, but they fear a huge impact on their already weakened economies. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro reports.

Since Monday (16 March), Spain is in a state of emergency something that has a direct impact on farms and on the daily lives of thousands of farmers and workers directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture.

On top of the current crisis, the Spanish agrifood sector is already weak after having to contend with low prices, a lack of profitability, and a rapidly ageing population of farmers, among other problems.

Safety measures not easy to implement in the agri-food sector

The sector is now trying to adapt to “urgent” and extreme measures adopted by socialist PM Pedro Sánchez and his executive, a coalition of socialists of the PSOE and leftists of Unidas Podemos (‘United we can’).

Basic measures such as wearing gloves or masks under specific circumstances, or staying at home to prevent contagion are relatively easy to implement, but other measures are much more complicated for the agricultural sector.

EFE AGRO contacted several Spanish agrifood organisations to ask their opinion on the state of emergency and its impact on the daily agrifood production.

It is particularly difficult, for example, for tomato producers, as this coincides with the harvest of that product, but also for cucumbers and aubergines, among other products of the season.

Adoración Blanque, member of the organisation ASAJA, one of Spain’s biggest platforms, sees no problem in keeping a ‘safety distance’ of 1.5 metres among workers, but the use of gloves and masks is compulsory.

The problem, as in other production sectors in Spain, is that masks and gloves are scarce these days and there is not sufficient stock of them in pharmacies, she stresses in an interview with EFE Agro.

Another problem is travelling between farms, given that travelling is limited to specific cases of need, such as going to workplaces, according to the Royal Decree passed this week.

The Decree clearly mentions the need to travel with a separation of at least 2 metres between people, but this is, in many cases, very difficult to achieve, in particular in the farming comunity.  

For the time being, Blanque stresses, they try to keep a minimum separation distance of 1.5 metres inside the vehicles, as recommended by Health authorities.

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