Spain: Fruit and veg overproduction in Almeria causes price crisis

The high temperatures recorded in recent weeks in the Almeria area have led to "overproduction" of fruits and vegetables, especially of those grown in greenhouses, so the winter campaign has accelerated at a time when other European countries are also enjoying good weather conditions for their crops, which means that exports may suffer.

Agricultural organizations like COAG, ASAJA and UPA have explained that both the abundance of fresh produce and the low external demand has triggered a price crisis for crops like tomatoes, courgettes, peppers and aubergines, as these have dropped below production costs. The president of Asaja, Francisco Vargas, pointed out that the crops' development is faster than usual, so the plants are becoming productive earlier and also in a more intense manner. "What a plant should yield over several months is produced within a few weeks, leading to their premature exhaustion," he explained.

Production is therefore at "unusual levels for this time of the year," added the provincial head of COAG, Andrés Góngora, who noted that the high volumes available have caused prices to decline and fall below production costs, without the possibility of keeping the vegetables unharvested because of their advanced ripening.

The representative of COAG also agrees with the general secretary of UPA Almeria, Francisca Iglesias, who stated that this "congestion" in the field is also due to the difficulties to export to other European countries, since currently temperatures are still good in France, Italy and the Netherlands, so they are naturally consuming more domestic produce.

As a result of these factors, prices have "collapsed" for almost all products. Estimates provided by the various organizations suggest that peppers cost around 0.40 Euro per kilo, when the production cost stands at around 0.60 Euro, while tomatoes or cucumbers, depending on the variety, cost between 0.20 and 0.25 Euro, which is about half of the production costs.

There are producers who have called for "a halt" of the harvesting to try encouraging an increase in demand and thus boost prices, but they believe that this option is not viable, since it entails a "loss in quality," which is one of the main assets of Almeria's products. It also entails the risk of losing customers, as they may start seeking for suppliers in other markets.

Management measures
In this context, the organizations have raised the need to activate prevention and crisis management measures through the Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organizations (OPFH), which is responsible for the planning of the withdrawal or destruction of certain products to prevent prices from collapsing.

They have also stated that the OPFH, which in the case of Andalusia concentrate mostly in Almeria and Granada, have to meet and plan the development of the campaign to prevent growers from suffering such situations.

In this sense, some organizations, like UPA, are already planning demonstrations; there are also plans to give vegetables for free on 25 November in the city of Almeria to protest against the low prices and the lack of regulatory mechanisms to prevent losses to producers.

Moreover, the weather has also favoured the emergence of pests, especially in some products, like courgettes, with a "high incidence of whitefly, thrips and virus diseases," according to COAG. As a result, the government's Office has been urged to take these exceptional circumstances into account and implement tax cuts. The organization has asked all growers "to pay a visit to your nearest COAG office or to the District Agricultural Office (OCA) to provide them with the necessary reports on losses and crop damage."


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