On Tuesday 18, the European Commission insisted that the crisis affecting the citrus sector in the Region of Valencia is structural in nature, and that "there is no data" backing the argument that the problems are caused by imports from third countries. This statement was released after looking into a complaint from Valencian producers presented to the European Parliament, in which they denounced the damage caused on Spanish citrus exports by the free trade agreement with South Africa.
The European Parliament will keep the case open, waiting for the European Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture to offer its own analysis and present its conclusions.
Despite what was stated by the representative of the Commission, MEP's of the Spanish political parties Unidas Podemos, Vox, PP, C's and PSOE have joined in the sector's complaints on the impact of the free trade agreement with South Africa, claiming that the citrus imported from this country are produced at a lower cost and are subject to lower phytosanitary standards.
The representative of the Commission said that Brussels is aware of the difficulties that citrus producers are going through in the Region of Valencia, and stressed that it is keeping in touch with producers to hear about their doubts; however, he also said that "the data does not show an increase in imports" from the African country. "Actually, the opposite is true."
The expert has pointed to other problems affecting the Valencian production, such as the impact of the weather, which has resulted in a more limited production, with citrus fruits of smaller size and quality, and a drop in the demand because of the milder winter temperatures.
He also pointed to the problems on the French border as another factor that has harmed Valencian exports to the rest of the European Union, as well as to the lack of unity of producers in the Region of Valencia, as only 30% of producers are in organizations.
The lack of coordination, said the expert, is problematic, because the agrarian organizations are the ones that are eligible to receive certain EU funds or benefit from crisis measures aimed at reversing the situation.
"There are means and instruments at your disposal to manage the crises, which could be a consequence of overproduction, and measures to improve your competitiveness, with investment in rural development and environmental measures," he said.