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Spain: Melon and watermelon growers concerned about consequences of negotiations with Mercosur

A new round of negotiations between the EU and Mercosur countries is currently underway, with protests among producers because of their possible impact on the agricultural sector. Asaja has denounced the lack of transparency of the process, which should come to an end by 2 March. According to sources from MERCOSUR, the goal would be for European borders to open to agricultural products from this region.

As denounced by the Copa-Cogeca, which brings European agricultural organizations together, the cost of this agreement for the agricultural sector would come close to 7,000 million Euro. The citrus and meat sectors would potentially be the most affected, but there is no doubt that with the great producing and exporting potential that these countries have, the fruit and vegetable sector as a whole would be affected. Brazil, for example, is recording a notable growth trend in melon production and is already the world's fourth largest watermelon producer, which in Asaja's opinion, must be taken into account when forecasting the future of these products.

Spain is the main supplier of melons to the European Union. In the latest campaign, a little over 232,000 tonnes were exported. It was followed very closely by Brazil, which ranked second with more than 225,000 tonnes. This country was also the first to reach the market, since they export during the winter and early spring along with other competitors in Africa, such as Morocco and Senegal. "Opening more doors to these competitors will certainly have consequences for us," says Asaja.

In the case of watermelons, Brazil is the world's fourth largest producer (the second is Turkey), and although sales to the EU don't have a prominent place (last season, they shipped 65,352 tonnes), it has a production of more than two million tonnes, which makes it a potential supplier.

In this scenario, Asaja-Almería also shows its concern for the downward trend recorded by traditional spring productions, since Almerian producers are slowly abandoning melons. This trend could also affect watermelons in the future, even though the figures supplied by the Delegation of agriculture point to an increase in the acreage devoted to this summer fruit. Last season, the province exported 18% less melon, for which it also obtained lower prices.

"Melons and watermelons have usually been a relief to producers in Almeria, but in recent years, they have been becoming less profitable, because when we reach the European market, it is already well-stocked with non-EU productions. The gap that they sometimes leave does not allow us to obtain decent prices in accordance with the quality we offer," says Provincial President Francisco Vargas.

Asaja is also concerned about imports from Africa. "They are becoming more common, which has meant that even brands that were set up in the province have started producing in these areas, introducing products in the market at times when we don't yet have our own production. The issue is that if they do not reach an adequate quality standard, they can bring damage to Almeria's own productions, as these may be rejected by the consumers or not be as appreciated as they should."

According to the president of Asaja, "the importation of Mercosur products is carried out by large import companies whose goal is to improve their profit margins, which are already very wide, supplying themselves with cheap products and avoiding those from European growers, who are not willing to give away their high quality products for a bargain price."

"Therefore, we insist on the threat to our productions posed by the arrival of larger volumes from third countries, where the authorities and large distributors don't have the same requirements, and where the focus is on buying cheap; very cheap," he concludes.

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