This year’s harvest will see more machines picking grapes than ever before. Only in vineyards owned by small growers or in the limited area of highest quality pagos will hand pickers be seen. The vast majority of the 7,000 hectares of vineyards still in production have been adapted for machine harvesting because of its hugely reduced cost and increased speed as well as the possibility of night harvesting. Picking at night reduces the risks of oxidation of the grapes thanks to lower night time temperatures.
Demand for pickers has been drastically reduced in the last few years and according to figures from the agricultural union only 400 pickers will be employed – only 20% of the number of workers employed during the year. The vineyard work requires about 2,000 temporary workers whose services won’t be required again by the vineyard owners, mainly bodegas, till December. Experienced pickers find that it is much more profitable to work the harvest in France as the main Spanish wine regions have much more mechanisation. Also the pay is better: they can earn €9.61 per hour as opposed to a little over €6 in Jerez which is the rate laid down by the Denominación de Origen.
The harvest in France provides work for 12,000 – 15,000 Andaluz workers mainly from the provinces of Cádiz, Sevilla and Jaén. Unlike those workers in coastal areas who have traded their pruning shears for the tools of the hotel and catering trade which offers better pay thanks to tourism, many workers in Cádiz are still attracted to the French wine areas. However the union says that they should make sure they have a contract and all necessary documents before they go to avoid any problems once they arrive. Fraud is not unknown.