Labor shortage hits farm harvest

JEDDAH: Irfan Mohammed

Published — Thursday 14 November 2013

Last update 14 November 2013 3:21 am

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Rain signals the start of the harvest season in Hail, Jouf, Baha and other areas of the Kingdom, but the farming sector is facing an acute shortage of farm laborers in the aftermath of the crackdown on visa violators.
The harvest season is time-bound and the scarcity of farm hands is delaying the process.
Additionally, imports of fresh produce from neighboring countries have fallen, resulting in a rise in prices.
Expatriates have dominated the farming sector in the Kingdom for years but because of the recent clampdown on illegal workers, it is becoming difficult to procure enough laborers to work on the farms.
Farming is a demanding occupation and is mainly done by the foreign labor force, which lives on the farms itself. Controlling the irrigation system, spraying pesticide and keeping a vigil on birds are only a few of the challenges of the farming sector.
Most expatriate workers who arrived in rural areas to work on farms escaped from their sponsors and moved to the large cities of the Kingdom such as Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam to work in the more lucrative construction sector.
Farm-related sectors have also been adversely affected by the scarcity of manpower.
Many workshops for tractor repairs, water pumps and shops selling landscaping equipment and water supply pipes have closed down.
Mohammad Sabiruddin, an Indian expatriate in Hail who has been manning a mechanical workshop dealing in farming equipment for the past 32 years, told Arab News that the harvest season is dull because most workshops are closed and the workers are staying away from work.
Mohammed Javed, a Pakistani expatriate who works on a vegetable farm in Tabuk said: “There is a shortage of labor so we can’t do a lot of farming activity even though this is the peak harvest time.”

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