German Pickle Producers Fret Over Minimum Wage Law

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Producers say the minimum wage could ruin pickles forever
Wikimedia/Leslie Seaton

Some Spreewald pickle producers worry Germany's new minimum wage will kill the pickle industry.

Germany’s parliament voted last week to enact the country’s first-ever minimum wage law, but not everyone is happy about it, and some producers say the move could actually do away with Germany’s famous pickles forever.

The new German minimum wage is 8.50 euros, or $9.36, per hour. The new minimum wage will be phased in for the agricultural sector, meaning farmworkers in Germany earn 7.20 euros, or $7.93. Before the new law, they made 5 euros, or $5.53, per hour. The new increase is a significant jump, and some producers say they think it will do away with some of Germany’s famous products, like Spreewald pickles.

According to The Local, Spreewald pickles are a protected local specialty. But some producers worry that if they have to increase the cost of the pickles to cover the increase in wages, then nobody will pay the higher prices.

"Because of higher wages the raw ingredients have become massively more expensive — by more than a half. It's a disaster,” said producer Konrad Linkenhell.

Linkenhell says that when the Netherlands introduced a minimum wage, the pickle industry there was devastated.

"Almost immediately the gherkin industry disappeared, which is why new opportunities arose in Germany,” he said.

Defenders of the minimum wage, however, say customers will continue to buy the pickles even if they are slightly more expensive. A jar of Spreewald pickles is reportedly $2.20 at supermarkets now.

"Anyone who doesn’t pay its work force enough to live well on doesn’t have a right to exist," said Lothar Judith of the Confederation of German Trade Unions.

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