The shippers' strike called by the Platform for the Defense of National and International Road Freight Transport has already been on-going for many days, and although in some producing areas there have been improvements in the output of goods from the packing facilities, there are still problems for fresh fruit and vegetables to reach their destinations, as well as different levels of shortages in the distribution. This is resulting in supermarkets having little supply because of panic buying from consumers, who fear the impact of the strike and the price increases resulting from the higher cost of fuels.
In the large-scale distribution sector, the interruption in the transport of fresh produce is causing losses amounting to around 130 million Euro per day. In Almeria, fruit and vegetable companies are losing about 10 million Euro a day, while in Huelva, each truck full of raspberries is worth 100,000 Euro, and those carrying strawberries are worth about 50,000 Euro, according to data handled by AECOC.
In recent days, traders and exporters have been dealing with problems to obtain packaging materials, which translates into delays in the orders. "Some companies are even renegotiating the packaging with some supermarkets due to the impossibility of providing them with the usual formats," says the manager of Coexphal, Luis Miguel Fernandez, who says that "a bit of a trade flow has already been recovered thanks to the setting up of some corridors at strategic points in Almeria with the collaboration of the Government Subdelegation."
"In the first days of the strike, we could hardly load the fruit to ship it to its destination due to the picket lines, but at the end of last week we began to regain some normality. Whereas in the past we only needed to make one call to a carrier to take the fruit to a platform, now we have to make an average of 6 calls. Therefore, everything is more complicated and more expensive," says Victoria Martin, of the Huelva-based company Plus Berries, which is currently in the middle of the berry campaign, also affected by the constant rains, which are reducing the production. "We are managing to gain access to some areas with our fruit, although with greater difficulties, while other provinces of northern Spain are receiving less than usual," he says.
Mercabarna, one of the largest wholesale markets and redistribution centers in Europe, is missing about 20% of the produce, especially berries and vegetables such as bell pepper, cucumber, eggplant, tomato or zucchini. "There have been problems to load and unload goods in the port of Barcelona due to the strikes. The most affected companies in this market are SMEs, which are being forced to work very hard to ensure the supply," said Mercabarna sources.