Pick and Choose

In rich countries it is becoming increasingly difficult to find people to do this at wages farmers say they can afford. Seasonal demand adds to the problems: in California, where some 450,000 people, mostly immigrants, are employed on fruit farms at the peak of the harvest, growers often leave some produce to rot. Even Japan’s exquisite and expensive strawberries are becoming too costly to pick because of a shortage of workers, in part caused by an ageing population. Despite worries about food shortages in the coming years, many farmers are more worried about labour shortages.

In part, says the article, because of an aging population but mostly because the Japanese government doesn't let in many foreigners. After all, where in the world would be the benefit of letting poor people work for better pay and having cheaper fruit? Yes, let's protect the delicate grapes of our social Chablis by restricting the freedom of others; the higher labor costs will make machines economical, and then the migrants won't have a reason to come!

Just as the mechanical reaper transformed the economics of cereal farming, a new wave of agricultural automation promises to do the same in other areas of horticulture.



Bonus points for anyone who can point out the relevance between this and minimum wage legislation.