Castellon. Region of Valencia

Spain: Citrus growers consider uprooting trees due to low prices

Castellon's citrus sector is facing a second wave of protests, which will peak on 21 January with simultaneous demonstrations in 30 municipalities of Castellon, Valencia and Tarragona. In those protests, producers will demand direct aid to alleviate the losses recorded in the current campaign. The gravity of the situation is such that there are already growers in Nules studying the possibility of uprooting their trees, given that they don't see a viable future for the activity.

Oranges and clementines are perishable and the tree becomes unfit for the next season if the fruit is not harvested in the current one. That is why there are producers willing to sell at a loss or cause the product to fall to the ground when the market conditions are bad, as has been the case this year. The picture of Clemenules on the ground has become common in the fields of the Plana Baixa. According to the sector, the massive entry of South African oranges saturated the European markets in the first part of the campaign, delaying the harvest of the Clemenules (Castellon's flagship variety), and causing the overlap of varieties in this second part. This has caused prices at origin to plummet, and that trend continues, in spite of the fact that sales are improving. 30% of the citrus production in the first part of the campaign has been left unharvested.

Some citrus producers of the agricultural association of Nules have expressed their concern to the platform Dignitat del Llaurador (Dignity for the Producer) and have said that unless public aid is granted, they may have no choice but to cut down the trees.

"People are desperate," says Cèsar Estanyol, councilor at the Nules City Council and spokesperson for the platform, who argues that the application of the safeguard clause in the agreement between the EU and South Africa would now be ineffective, as it's already too late, and that the most suitable solution for citrus farmers would be to receive direct subsidies.

According to the general secretary of the Unió de Llauradors, Carles Peris, causing the fruit to fall from the tree has a cost of 120 Euro per hanegada (about 831.9 square meters), and this has to be added to the production costs.

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