The quick spread of the coronavirus in Spain has forced the government to decree strict preventive measures, such as mobility restrictions or the suspension of non-essential activities to reduce the population's exposure to the infection and curb the rate of infection. These rules have also led to the suspension of the weekly markets.
In the municipality of Murcia, the first markets to be suspended were those of La Fama and Santa Maria de Gracia (from March 12), because they were the largest and attracted the most customers. But in view of the increase in the number of cases in the region, the City Council decreed that same weekend to suspend all markets until the state of alarm ends and the authorities allow the activity to continue.
This measure has taken a significant toll on fruit and vegetable traders, who are keeping their perishable goods in cold storage.
The president of the street vendors of Murcia and surrounding areas, Fulgencio Barba Espinosa, is among those affected. At the moment he has around 400 kilos of nuts in storage and between 4,000 and 5,000 kilos of fruit in cold stores at different temperatures. Oranges, pears, apples and mandarins need more cold (between 0 and 2 degrees), while bananas, melons, pineapples, grapes and mangoes need less and can be kept at a temperature of between 8 and 9 degrees.
With several decades of going from market to market, they have many regular customers. "This week, five or six of us have prepared fruit boxes for our customers following all the safety measures; however, there are colleagues with even greater volumes than me, because they do more markets. Some of them have as much as 25,000 kilos," says Barba.
These days, he is considering the idea of asking the City Council about the possibility of setting up the markets "but in a more isolated way, with fewer stands and more distance between them, and only for food. We could get customers to keep the compulsory distance by using barrier tape, and we would use mask and gloves, like in the supermarkets".
Barba states that "the situation for market vendors is very serious, because we operate on a replacement basis; that is, you sell and pay for new goods, you sell and pay again? And now, if we don't get an income, how are we going to pay our bills, the rent, etc. It's going to be a big blow. We're having a very hard time because we're families with few resources."