Main Competition

The Pickers

by Elke Sasse, Germany, 2024, 80'

Seydou from Mali picks oranges in southern Italy. He has no contract and is paid by the box – like all the other pickers. He lives in a self-built shack in a settlement with no water or electricity. 1 million migrants pick our daily fruit and vegetables in Europe’s fields. Most of them are undocumented, and exploitation is the rule rather than the exception.

The pickers are the mobile labour force that fills our supermarket baskets. They move from one field to the next. Without asking for their rights. Naveed from Pakistan has been picking olives in Greece illegally for 8 years. Kostas in Greece has to hire undocumented workers, and Nello, an Italian orange farmer, sits in his office with a calculator – farmers tend to save on their workers if they don’t earn enough for their produce. In Nepal, Avinash discusses the price of a ‘visa’ to Portugal, where Kirti is already picking blueberries with a €14,000 loan on her back. At least Bahija came to Spain from Morocco with a contract. But there is still a way of not paying her the minimum wage. While exploitation in supply chains such as chocolate or coffee is already being discussed, fair fruit and vegetables is not yet an issue. Exploitation is something “far away”. The Pickers is a journey into the European fields where our daily fruit and vegetables are harvested. What we see adds a bitter taste to what we eat every day. No way out of this system? There is one: Pape from Senegal produces fair trade oranges in southern Italy: “We don’t want to be seen as revolutionary, we want it to be the new normal!”

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