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Sugarcane farmers using technology and machinery to replace missing manual laborers

Costa Maya, Q.R. — Costa Maya sugarcane farmers are increasing harvest efforts due to a lack of manual laborers. Local farmers say the Maya Train project is responsible for the manual labor shortage that has left them scrambling.

Benjamín Gutiérrez Reyes, President of the National Confederation of Rural Producers (CNPR), says they are increasing efforts with machinery to carry out the harvest that is usually done manually.

He says that right now, their main obstacle is the shortage of labor, so they have had to resort to gradually modernizing their processes. For the first time, Coasta Maya sugarcane producers are using drones to fumigate and machinery for the harvest.

“We are all committed to moving forward although to do so, we have to adapt and modify our agricultural practices to face the challenges that are presented to us, one of them being the hiring of labor for the production cycle.

“So in the face of the impossibility of gathering the number of cutters we require to harvest, we have chosen to modernize by acquiring cutters, harvesters and even drones for fumigation work because we have to close the harvest,” he explained.

Gutiérrez Reyes says they normally hire around 1,800 laborers to manually machete the cane and produce the sugar, but the Tren Maya project has attracted those same laborers and left local farmers without seasonal help.

The head of the Confederación Nacional de Productores Rurales (CNPR) says even an increase in salary was not enough to attract the manual laborers they needed.

“We have increased the workers’ pay, but even then we have not been able to hire more. It is a problem that we have had at the beginning of the harvest, since last year it has been much more difficult to hire because everyone prefers to go to the Maya Train and no longer wants to return to the country side.

“The few who accept end up abandoning the manual work after a week because not everyone is prepared for the long days, especially under the sun. And although it complicates the outlook for us, we cannot miss the deadlines because many families depend on this,” he said.

Normally around 1,800 temporary workers are hired to cut and produce the sugarcane. Photo: CGC

Costa Maya sugarcane farmers have instead, implemented technology and machinery into the current harvest, which, according to Gutiérrez Reyes, is over 1.6 tons.