The citrus sector is important for Murcia's economy, as it generates 30,000 jobs and was able to export 554,000 tons of fruit generating more than 622 million euro last year, despite the consequences of the pandemic.
However, the sector is currently at a standstill, according to Juan de Dios Hernandez, a member of the Board of Directors of Asaja Murcia. "We are facing many difficulties to market our citrus fruits. The COVID-19 pandemic is crushing us."
The citrus sector, like so many other sectors affected by the COVID-19 crisis, is also in need of aid at the regional, state, and European levels, he stated.
"Our productions are literally on the ground. We can't export our fresh products because the markets, the hotel, and the tourism industry are closed. We are at 30 or 40 percent of our capacity," he added.
In addition, the processing industry is being oversupplied. "The crisis is crushing us all, that's why the prices paid for the industrial lemon, i.e. the surplus used to make juices, aren't good enough for producers or cover harvesting costs."
Furthermore, the sector is affected by unfair competition from third countries, which is why it demands the European Union take urgent measures. "We comply with regulations while other countries use products that are harmful to health, sell their citrus at ridiculous prices, and don't comply with quality guarantees. This has hurt us so badly that we are no longer competitive," Juan de Dios stated.
Asaja Murcia created Asaja Citrus to help the sector fight against these inequalities, Juan de Dios stated. We have the support of the Murcian Minister of Agriculture, Antonio Luengo, to search for solutions to alleviate the effects of the health crisis in the sector, he added.