Tomato slaves

Across Italy an invisible army of migrant workers harvests tomatoes destined for our dinner plates. Paid poverty wages and living in squalor, medical charities have described conditions as ‘hell’. Andrew Wasley reports from Basilicata, southern Italy

Andrew Wasley
May 25, 2014 · 15 min read

In the parched countryside outside the town of Venosa, in Basilicata, southern Italy, along a rough track fifteen minutes’ drive from the nearest road, you come to a series of ruined farmhouses. Overgrown and run down, the brickwork crumbling, and surrounded by the detritus of poverty — rubbish, abandoned water butts, washing draped out of windows, dogs roaming — at first glance it’s difficult to believe anyone lives here.

The slums are in fact home to several hundred migrant workers about to harvest the region’s abundant tomato crop. Every August, thousands of itinerants, mostly from Africa, some from Eastern Europe, descend on southern Italy to scratch a living picking tomatoes that will eventually be processed and exported across Europe — including to the UK — to be sold in tins, or as pastes, purees or passatas, or used as an ingredient in other food products.

Video: A migrants’ journey by Michele Palazzi & Alessandro Penso

Migrant Workers

The stories of migrant workers in Singapore and beyond.

Migrant Workers

The stories of migrant workers in Singapore and beyond.

Andrew Wasley

Written by

Award-winning investigative journalist specialising in food and environment issues. Full coverage see: www.andrewwasley.com

Migrant Workers

The stories of migrant workers in Singapore and beyond.