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Antonio Ruiz, of Murgiverde: "The Netherlands wants hydroponic crops to be accredited as organic"
The Netherlands confirms that Spanish organic production is illicit
The quick expansion of the greenhouse acreage planted with organic vegetables in Spain has led to criticism from the Netherlands, where they confirm that Spain has more than 1,000 hectares of organic greenhouses built on plots where producers have used soil from other places.
The Dutch agriculture lobby claims that the European rules for organic farming require the crops to be planted on certified organic soil. There are strict regulations when it comes to the origin and status of the soil, although there is an exception for Scandinavian producers, who can certify their products as organic when grown on organic soil in containers. However, this exemption will be phased out over the next ten years, as recently announced by the EU.
"Although producers in southern Europe also requested an exemption so that soil on bedrock can also meet these standards, the EU did not respond to their request. Organic production in Spain will therefore have to comply with the general rules, and at the moment, it cannot be certified as organic," said Dutch deputy Tjeerd de Groot, of the party D66, who asked for further clarification on the issue, because he believes that this results in unfair competition with Dutch growers and other European producers who are required to meet strict standards."
The Dutch deputy has asked the secretary of state to clarify things as regards the Spanish method of "cultivation of organic products on bedrock with the help of auxiliary soil."
It is worth noting that hydroponic cultivation with coconut substrate, very common in the Netherlands, is not certified or recognised as organic by the EU.
According to the commercial director of one of the largest Spanish companies producing organic vegetables, the Almeria-based Murgiverde, which has more than 400 hectares devoted to organic farming from a total of around 1500 hectares in production, "the Netherlands has problems with its high water table (an accumulation of groundwater that is located at a relatively small depth below ground level). We do not have this problem in Spain and we enjoy a clear competitive advantage. For this reason, the Dutch lobby is pushing even the EU to accept hydroponic farming as organic through certifications," explains Antonio Ruiz Rodríguez.
"We have a lot more (and more natural) soil, and they do not have this advantage. Every country seeks to defend its own interests; it is normal," says Antonio Ruiz. "The Netherlands, for example, will continue to have huge logistical advantages over us," he adds.
Organic farming is a strategic business area for Murgiverde, even though its profitability has been declining in recent years. "Prices for organic products will continue to fall, because supply is growing above demand, so I believe that organic crops will eventually replace conventional crops. We think that this is the best way to ensure the survival of producers, as the price wars in conventional products are reaching unsustainable levels."
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