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Spain: Murcia's stone fruit campaign coming to a close with ruinous pricesEverything seemed perfect for the agricultural sector back in March and April, when growers saw that their crops had not been affected by frost, hail or pests. They believed then that the 2017 campaign was going to be record-breaking in a good sense. However, in May it was time to start harvesting and they encountered a big problem: in the European countries importing most of the fruit from the Region it was still cold, and their inhabitants don't usually consume fresh fruit in those conditions. While stocks were piling up in the warehouses, German, French and other European Union trucks were not arriving to load them and export them.
This was explained by the heads of the stone fruit sector of the Region in Cieza, the Spanish municipality producing the most peaches and nectarines, with more than 200 million kilos. The president of Fecoam, Santiago Martínez, attended the press conference together with the directors of the stone fruit department, Pascual Hortelano and Juan Pedro Martínez. He was accompanied by the President of Coag in the Vega Alta, Manuel Martínez.
In addition to calling the campaign "ruinous" and claiming that this year, as a general rule, no profits have been made, the growers' representatives have urgently asked the central government to establish, by law, "a minimum trade margin, so that the difference between the price paid to the producer and that paid by consumers does not reach 800%, as has been observed his year on several occasions.
They also called on the administrations to organise campaigns to promote the consumption of fruit and to regulate or limit new plantations, so that they can be set up by professionals in the sector and not by speculators. Moreover, they have requested the cancellation of Social Security quotas, since half of the hired labour has not been amortized.
There was also self-criticism. Santiago Martínez stressed that "we are not facing an excess of supply, but an agglutination of the production. We are the ones who have to ensure that the campaign does not last a month and a half, as this year, but six months."
Lack of resources
Looking to the immediate future, the biggest concern of the sector is the shortage of water. "About 260 million kilos of peaches are produced in the area of Cieza, Jumilla and Fortuna, 200 of which are shipped elsewhere," said Martinez, who warned that "the situation is very tough, especially north of Molina de Segura, where there are no desalination plants and growers depend solely on the Tagus. We are facing a truly difficult future."
Publication date: 9/28/2017
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