Fresh fruit and vegetables will become increasingly scarce in Europe, suppliers warn, as the coronavirus pandemic hampers the global movement of produce and of the people needed to gather crops.
Due to ever growing travel restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus, we are now facing a shortfall of almost 80% of the workers required in Scotland to pick our crops this season.
While many companies have no trouble hiring truck drivers for shorter distance gigs at a few hours at a time, employers have long been struggling to find drivers who can be away for days or even weeks. “Trucking companies are finding it much harder to recruit those long haul drivers,” he explains.
A prediction: regulatory barriers to automation will fall. In the short term we are seeing supermarkets and delivery services going on an hiring spree, but in parallel I’d expect a stronger push to replace humans with machines where this can be done but has insofar been hindered by regulation. Higher contagion risk, current and future, will encourage more businesses to automate more jobs. Continuity of the service — being able to function even when your workforce falls ill — will be another factor.
We would have (one) less problem if trucks did not require drivers, if fruit picking was handled by robots (hard to do, still), if supermarkets could stay open 24/7h with self-checkouts (easy), if the last mile delivery was handled by a drone or machine of some sort, and so on.
On some of these things we’re not there yet, but some sectors have been held back (protected) by regulation: I’d expect that to go away quite soon.