The Citrus Management Committee (CGC) has called on the Spanish Ministry of Public Works to urgently streamline the border crossing procedures in La Jonquera and Irún, after these were closed by the Guardia Civil following the protests by the French 'yellow vests'. In the same line, it has asked the French Government to guarantee safe passage for the perishable products, after having yielded to part of the protesters' requests.
The successive blockades that have taken place in recent weeks, both on the border between both countries and in some important French roads, have taken a huge toll on the Saint Nicholas campaign, during which the consumption of clementines and oranges soars in countries like the Netherlands, Belgium and many parts of Germany. As a result of the protests, the deliveries have been arriving one or two days later than initially scheduled. Furthermore, if no final agreement is reached, the peak of the citrus campaign, which is the Christmas period, could also be threatened.
The CGC reports that the economic impact of the protests on the sector will be important, but could even become "catastrophic" if no security is guaranteed to carriers in the coming weeks. December is usually the month in which the export volume is the greatest, oscillating between 620,000 and 700,000 tons. These shipments consist mainly of Nules clementines and Navelina oranges.
Also, the road blockades and the kilometer long retentions reported in recent times will also delay the arrival of batches that were intended to be shipped to overseas markets. Shipments to Rotterdam, the biggest European fruit and vegetable port, intended to be re-shipped to third markets as important as Canada, China, the US or other non-EU European countries, such as Norway, Finland or Iceland, may not arrive at the scheduled time and miss their connection. In such a situation, in addition to direct losses for the operator, logistical problems would also arise, as there are no places available in the port for that fruit to be stored.
In general terms, the situation has not yet led to a lack of stock in the large European distribution, where 91 to 93% of the Spanish citrus exports are marketed, but the sector's sales have clearly been affected, and what's even worse, its reputation has also been damaged. The conflict is not only affecting the trucks on the way to their destinations, but also on their way back, as after already being late with the unloading of the fruit, they are unable to get back in time in order to load the next shipment. Trucks are, in fact, the main means of transport and a decisive factor in the competitiveness of the Spanish citrus industry. Compared to the cheaper supply from third countries, with much lower production costs, Spain is able to take advantage of its geographical proximity to its customers.
The CGC has also recalled that the situation this season was already complicated. The rains have reduced the number of days in which it was possible to harvest and handle the fruit to a minimum. Furthermore, there has been an overall delay in the ripening of the first clementines and oranges, which caused the campaign to kick off between two and three weeks late.