Spain: Citrus sector expects concrete measures from Ministry of Agriculture

The Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, visited Valencia on Monday, January 14, to meet with the President of the regional government, Ximo Puig, and the representatives of the agrarian organizations. This meeting comes at a time of crisis for the citrus sector due to the "disastrous" campaign that Valencian producers are going through. Until December, the sector has suffered losses totaling no less than 130 million Euro, according to a study by the Unió de Llauradors.

Protests have been on-going in the Region of Valencia for a few weeks. In fact, in December, some 2,000 citrus growers protested in front of the Ministry of Agriculture to demand the implementation of urgent measures to help alleviate "the severe price crisis that the sector has been suffering."

In some municipalities in the province of Castellón, protests have also been held against supermarkets that have been selling fruit of the Valencia-Late variety that actually came from South Africa.

The associations expect Planas to announce more measures beyond those presented in December, when the Ministry launched a quota for the processing of oranges, mandarins, clementines and satsumas into juice, which would cover up to 50,000 tons of citrus. The measure could cost up to 12.5 million Euro.

Already then, AVA-ASAJA, one of the biggest Valencian agricultural associations, said that the severity of the citrus crisis "is forcing us to continue negotiating the adoption of new measures."

Meanwhile, the Unió de Llauradors hopes that the meeting held on Monday serves for the Minister "to pick two or three concrete proposals in order to defend them in Brussels." The institution's general secretary, Carles Peris, has focused on two issues: cold treatment and active materials; two processes that Spanish producers have to adhere to, but which are not required for the fruit imported from countries like South Africa.

Agreement with South Africa
The agreement with this country, which has been in force since 2016, has in fact been pointed as the root of the problem by the agricultural associations. One of the main problems is that the imports arriving to countries such as Portugal, the United Kingdom or the Netherlands pass laxer phytosanitary controls than those required for Spanish oranges.

Peris expects Planas to argue in Europe that fruit imported from third countries (mostly South Africa, but also Egypt or Morocco) should have to go through the same health controls as the Spanish production.

The failure to do so, in his opinion, is "dangerous", because "the only insurance against pests is the fruit's cold treatment," he explained, while noting that the Spanish production has already been affected by four plagues of South African origin.

The general secretary of the agrarian organization also demanded the granting of direct aid to the sector, since it has not managed to sell the production this year: "Things need to be like when the Russian veto was introduced, since the growers have not been able to sell their productions due to this competition," said Peris.

According to the same study from La Unió, out of the 130 million Euro lost by producers up until December, 65%; that is, about 85 million Euro, would be related to the importation of oranges and mandarins from third countries.

In this context, the president of AVA-Asaja, Cristóbal Aguado, has asked for "the renegotiation of trade agreements with third countries that compete in an advantageous and disloyal manner with our oranges." This organization estimates the losses at 163 million Euro.

Source: Europa Press

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