MEXICO CITY (AP) — Itinerant farmworkers in Mexico have been hit by a double whammy of rising competition from unemployed locals amid coronavirus lockdowns and unsafe or unhygienic working and living conditions, a coalition of advocacy groups said Thursday.
The National Network of Agricultural Laborers said the coronavirus pandemic has left many local people in growing regions out of work, leading them to compete for jobs with seasonal workers.
“In the context of coronavirus, in some farming regions of Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Jalisco and San Luis Potosí, there is starting to be an excess of available labor, given that local people who are out of work have turned to farm work,” the coalition’s statement said.
One group of indigenous farmworkers from Hidalgo found themselves without work and with no place to stay in the northern state of San Luis Potosí and had to walks 60 miles (100 kilometers) at night to get help from a local government office, it said.
The seasonal workers are mainly from impoverished regions of southern Mexico, and mostly work in wealthier northern or north-central regions.
The network said almost all of the country’s 3 million seasonal farmworkers are indigenous, and often live in unsanitary work camps.
For example, it said, there is an open sewage canal in front of farmworkers’ housing in the north-central state of Guanajuato, raising fears of contagion.
Worse, itinerant workers must often pay “maintenance” fees to live in the work camps, which is difficult if they can’t find harvesting work, the statement said.
The groups called on the government to enforce health, labor and safety protections in existing law for these workers.