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Spanish protests are not a certain harbinger for the rest of the season

Last year it was cucumbers, is there a different Spanish 'crisis crop' this year?

Today, growers in the Spanish Almería region called a halt to their aubergine and bell pepper harvests. They vow to not begin again until prices reach at least a cost-effective level again. "It is costing us money to harvest aubergines," say growers. They saw the price for this product fall below €0,25. "We can no longer stand by while money is being made off the sweat of our brow. We want our efforts to be valued and rewarded."

Heaps of aubergines along with a pile of yellow bell peppers in Spain. Seeing this is reminiscent of similar protest action at the beginning of the year. Then it concerned the overproduction of cucumbers at the wrong time

The farmers point out the enormous price differences - up to 726% is added to the price of a kg of aubergines before it reaches the store. And to rub salt into the wound, shared the 2018 figures last week. In that year, Spanish growers got 50% less for their aubergines than Dutch growers.

Extra planting and getting onto the market earlier
Dutch traders confirmed that the start of the Spanish season was difficult. Certainly for aubergines and bell peppers. The cultivation of these two products began about two weeks earlier than usual. As a result, it overlapped with Western European production.

Some Spanish farmers, therefore, chose not to alternate their cultivation with any melons. They could then start with bell pepper cultivation sooner. Extra was also planted. This was at the expense of tomatoes. This product's area shrank again.

No huge volumes yet
The season may have started poorly. However, according to importers, this does not necessarily mean the rest of the season will go badly for the Spanish growers too. The weather has been good recently, with no extreme conditions. However, it is bound to start getting cooler soon. This change will benefit the market, they say.

Added to this, Northwestern European retailers usually switch around this time. Demand should increase then too. In Germany, it is mostly Spanish goods at auction. In the Netherlands, everything is coming to an end also. Here, bell peppers are usually the longest-growing crop.

At this time of the season, there is also not yet a massive supply. Low prices, therefore, do not yet put direct pressure on the Spanish farmers. The dumped heaps of aubergines and bell peppers do not have to set the tone for the rest of the season. Overlap production in the South and that in Northwestern European is nothing new. This always occurs in September and October.

Spaniards call for European regulation
The current, poor market situation must be remedied. To do this, Several groups in Spain have joined forces. These are the Spanish horticultural organizations, COAG, Asaja, and UPA, the Coexphal Growers Association, and the traders' association, Ecohal. They want to put a stop to the current weak market. There will, therefore, be a protest in Almería on 19 November.

The government will then be asked to take structural measures. The question is whether that will bring about change in the short term. The same emergency appeal was made during the 'cucumber crisis'. This crisis was at the end of 2018/beginning of 2019. Things are now, however, going very well again.

There are several things that need to happen, according to the organizations involved. Unfair competition from other countries must end. A specific crisis management fund for the entire sector is also sorely needed. They are also asking for rapid European measures to be taken. These must break the power retail has when it comes to determining prices.

Exceeding quotas
Andrés Góngora Belmonte of COAG has since reacted too. According to him, the European Union is responsible for food security. However, at the same time, the EU signing agreements with third parties. These are undermining the EU's production sectors. "The EU is forcing us into a defenseless position - there is a serious invasion of products from other countries."

"Europe is a free-trade zone. There is no form of control. Even the agreements that have been made are not being met. Take the deal with Morocco as an example. In particular, the imported tomatoes, courgettes, and green beans exceeded their quotas."

COAG, therefore, also wants to be able to perform customs duties. "For some tomatoes, for instance, there must be a minimum import price of €0,46. They are subsequently sold below that price. This is even lower than production costs," explains the COAG's General Secretary.

He adds that this is not only a problem for Almería or Spain. "There is a need for crisis management measures. The fruit and vegetable sector lives from the market. This has now completely broken down. A crisis management mechanism is urgently needed. Whether it be a climate crisis fund or a buy-in option, these instruments must be written into law."

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