Accompanied by the general director of Agricultural Production, José María Salamero, Joaquín Olona met with representatives of Aragon's fruit sector in order to analyse the conclusions of the three day event organised by the department, which dealt with the market crisis of the sweet fruit sector, and to review the recommendations from experts.
Speaking to the media, the Councillor stressed that this crisis is due to "a structural mismatch between supply and demand which is mostly affecting small family farms."
He said that, in the short term, it could be possible to address this by means of the operative programs of the producer organizations, "making sure that the money distributed reaches the small farms."
He rejected the possibility of allowing the destruction of crops, because, in his opinion, "this could lead to a loss of productive capacity," and insisted on the need to limit the setting up of new plantations and dedicate resources to address a "fundamental issue, which is the lack of a commercial structure."
Olona said that there are deficiencies in the capacity to organise the supply of the fruit sector in Aragon, warning that in recent years "practically no funds have been allocated to commercial activities. We should not be surprised that we have commercial difficulties when we are not making the necessary investments to improve our commercial structure."
There are no immediate solutions
"The sector is asking for immediate solutions, but there are none," lamented Olona, expressing concern about the situation that small farms are going through. "I am immediately offering the possibility of granting low interest loans, practically at zero interest, so that farms that are suffering serious liquidity issues can face them," but this measure has been considered "insufficient" by the sector.
In any case, ahead of the next campaign, it would be possible to introduce measures to address the marketing issues, carrying out commercial actions and allocating resources also to "voluntary withdrawal programs, which can be financed by the producer organizations themselves."
Moreover, it has been found that 50 percent of the producers are not part of organizations and, in the case of peaches, "25 percent of the production is not under the umbrella of these organizations. It is a problem that we should correct."
"I don't want to deny the responsibility of the administration in this deficient behaviour of the producer organizations, but it is necessary for the sector to have the will to join forces" and that, at the same time, these organizations "are oriented towards what they were created for: organising and improving the marketing, not the production," he stressed.
Also, he believes that certain varieties "are not adjusting well to market demand," mentioning the case of peaches, for which "we are seeing a concerning drop in consumption." In this regard, he said that the problem may lie not so much in that the variety is not adequate, but that "perhaps the cultivation process or harvesting is not adequate to meet the needs of the market."
He pointed out that the commitment of the department is "for us to have an action plan negotiated with the sector by the end of this year, because the survival of many family farms is at stake and public funds must be devoted to guarantee their viability, as those in the Bajo Cinca, La Almunia or Calatayud are the basis of our rural economy," he said.