Spain: Citrus crisis leads to breach of contracts, defaults and excessive fruit discards

The citrus crisis drama has reached the courts of justice. The chaotic and desperate situation that thousands of Valencian producers are going through due to the terrible results achieved in the current orange season is causing many to start filing complaints before the courts.

The legal services of the Valencian Association of Agricultural Producers (AVA-ASAJA) reported that it has been handling a flood of cases that have ended up leading to the filing of lawsuits. The lawyers of this agrarian organization assure that the number of complaints reported has reached unprecedented levels in the history of the sector.

The aforementioned complaints have mostly been filed due to three irregularities penalized by law: the breach of contracts, payment defaults and the alleged detection of an abusive amount of discards during the fruit handling process. The most frequent breach is the sudden refusal by certain commercial operators to harvest all, or a part, of the grower's production, as agreed in the contract document.

There are also many cases of operators who fail to pay for the fruit or those who try to renegotiate prices or who decide to sell without a price agreed in advance. As for discards, sometimes their share can account for up to 70% of the production acquired, and that share, which supposedly doesn't meet the necessary commercial conditions, is not paid to the grower.

The president of AVA-ASAJA, Cristóbal Aguado, believes that the current situation in the sector "is explosive" and encourages citrus producers suffering any abuse from commercial operators "to go to court and demand what rightly belongs to them. It is true that there are many commercial operators who are doing things properly, but the rebound we are seeing in the number of breaches is alarming."

The head of this agricultural organization also wished to send a message to the authorities and, more specifically, to the Food Information and Control Agency (AICA) (a body under the Ministry of Agriculture), asking them to take a firm stand on the matter and to apply the necessary sanctions.

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