Unfair Trade

In Spain, Migrant Farm Workers Toil to Feed Germany’s Booming Organic Market

Workers use axes to harvest cork in a forest in Cortes de la Frontera
A cork farmer near Malaga, Spain, in July 2014.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    German demand for organic food is higher than ever. At the same time there is a plentiful supply of migrant labor in Spain. Some unscrupulous farm operators are exploiting the situation.

  • Facts


    • In 2013 the German organic food and beverage market was worth €7.55 billion, a 7.2 percent increase on the previous year.
    • Tens of thousands of migrants from Morocco and other poor countries are flocking to Spain to find work.
    • Certified organic farms are supposed to pay the minimum wage of €5.80. However, workers claim that unpaid overtime pushes their hourly wage down to between €3 and €4 an hour.
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Oussama Assaf stands in a field and cuts vegetables from their stalks. He is working at an organic farm in the Spanish region of Andalusia. It is operated by Cuevas Bio, which supplies among others Denn’s, the German organic supermarket chain. However, it’s highly unlikely that customers of Denn’s in Germany have any idea what sort of conditions Mr. Assaf is working under.

Andalusia’s prime industry is agriculture and the organic sector is booming. It is a business that is fueled by cheap labor. Tens of thousands of migrants from Morocco and other countries flock to Spain hoping, like Mr. Assaf, to build a better life.

Yet Mr. Assaf, who did not want to give his real name, quickly woke up to the grim reality of working in Spain’s agricultural sector.

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