The Need to Elevate the Profile of Agricultural WorkBy Miguel Ángel Curiel | Tue, 04/05/2022 - 13:00
As I mentioned in my previous contribution, Mexican Berries: A Field of Opportunities, the agro-industry is one of the most prosperous and dynamic productive sectors in Mexico. Of course, this progress is largely due to all those who take part in this sector and who have generated valuable contributions that have made Mexico the seventh-largest agricultural exporter in the world and allowed our products to reach every continent.
However, the progress in this industry leads us to think about how well-being is shared among the community, particularly among those employees who work hard so we can all enjoy safe, healthy, nutritious, and delightful products. That is certainly a challenge that we need to recognize if we are to address it and work toward elevating the profile of agricultural work within Mexico.
According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER), the employed population in the primary sector in Mexico registers 6.9 million people, 12.4 percent of the total working force. These individuals, many of whom are women, play a vital role in helping to meet the public health goal of ensuring an accessible supply of nutritious food for the population. Yet, many of these people are not paid livable wages, they work in hazardous conditions and face discrimination.
To this complex reality we must consider that, according to estimates made by the National Institute of Geography and Statistics (INEGI), there are just over 428,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 17 who carry out agricultural activities, either because from a young age they became the primary income source for their families or because of the lack of opportunities they faced in their communities.
In this regard, I would like to highlight that on Feb. 23, the Mexican Senate unanimously passed the reform to the Federal Labor Law (LFT) that will allow young people of 16 and 17 years of age to enjoy the legal recognition of their activities in agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing, as long as these do not involve actions considered dangerous and unsanitary. This was a decisive step to bring young people closer to opportunities and, therefore, for human and economic development. It is a matter of creating conditions for young people to grow and thrive.
At Driscoll’s, we believe creating dignified jobs in which people can grow and thrive isn’t just the right thing to do but our duty to ensure the future and welfare of the communities in which we operate and to which we owe. Our independent growers were always expected to comply with all laws and regulations at a national and international level; today, we are forced to go a step further to assure the well-being of thousands of young people who will seek to join our industry. We are confident that working hand in hand with those who have done their part to achieve positive changes in the agri-food sector will contribute to strengthening virtuous circles in favor of the people involved in these activities. The commitment to dignify agricultural work has materialized through the professionalization of people in the field, in which the profile of workers has gone from being harvesters and crew chiefs, among others, to Fertigation Engineers and Crop Protection Engineers, just to mention a few.
Today, we endorse our responsibility not only to help improve people's economic conditions but also to promote human development, for them, their families, and their communities. More importantly, we want the agricultural sector to turn into a real employment alternative in which people can develop professionally in such a way that not only will they carry out their activities as agricultural workers with pride but with the certainty and conviction that they can reach their personal and professional goals.
As a representative of Driscoll's, I take deep pride in belonging to a company that recognizes that more and better jobs in rural areas, especially for rural youth, are essential to reduce poverty and inequality but also a requirement to elevate the agricultural profile for sustainable livelihoods, making jobs in agriculture attractive to younger generations as a personal and professional growth opportunity.
Although there is still a long way to go and many challenges to face, at Driscoll's we trust that together we can create a common front for the benefit of our people, and we recognize that we can count on allies who have decided to take a firm step in improving working conditions for agricultural workers. That is why today, more than ever, we must continue working toward a shared vision of a prosperous and sustainable agriculture sector that is full of opportunities in every possible way.