Fruit and vegetables market

Spain: Mercamadrid tightens controls to prevent purchases outside opening hours

Mercamadrid's fruit and vegetable market will now prevent buyers from purchasing the best pieces at night. Until now, the official opening hours were from 6:00 to 11:00, but buyers could gain access hours earlier. With the new schedule, from 5.00 to 14.00, which came into force on 1 March, Mercamadrid is enforcing stricter controls on access to the warehouses, so that no one can enter outside of that schedule. With this measure, the company aims to avoid the overlap of suppliers' trucks with those of sellers. The retail associations point out that the loss of flexibility in the schedule could be a serious loss for SME's, since they need to make their purchases before the opening time to be able to have the products on time in their stores.

In a statement, the retail associations Adefruta, Cocam and Fecoam point out that it is common practice for traders to access the market at night. Factors such as "the limitations imposed by unloading regulations in cities, regulations of markets, retail centres and street markets, or traffic issues have de facto led to a notable advance in the time at which fruit sales in Mercamadrid take place," explains the document.

Since last Thursday, traders have come across closed doors and stricter security than usual. Retailers claim that the Asomafrut wholesalers association has been able to put pressure on Mercamadrid's general management to tighten access. The spokespersons of Mercamadrid and Asomafrut deny such pressures and argue that the closure of the points of access to the warehouses is due to the security measures imposed, usual for such facilities. With regard to purchases outside the official schedule, Mercamadrid admits that some purchases were made 15 or 20 minutes before the opening, but denies that any type of transaction took place at night.

Alberto Chamarro, representative of the Federation of Travelling Merchants (Fecoam), affirms that this sector is especially affected by the measure. "Mercamadrid is jam-packed in the morning, and many of us have to travel to very distant towns to sell our products," he explains. "It is very difficult to get to our businesses on time being granted access at 5.00." The manager of Adefruta, Alejandro González, points out that the new situation is a serious blow for micro-SME's. "Greengrocers run by three or four people cannot afford to be in Mercamadrid and in the store at the same time," he says.

González highlights that the measure "benefits the sellers," because it encourages quick purchases, since buyers are forced to accept the prices without bargaining, which increases the retail price. Chamarro assures that these restrictions "are just the tip of the iceberg, and that wholesale fruit companies are going to continue pushing small businesses out of the way by imposing impossible schedules."


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