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"Imports have destabilized the lemon campaign, with lower prices both for fresh and industrial products"

Union de Uniones denounces that the port of Cartagena maintains discounts for imported citrus fruits

The agricultural and livestock organization Unión de Uniones de Agricultores y Ganaderos has criticized the insensitivity of the Port Authority of Cartagena, whose management has decided to maintain the discounts for citrus fruits imported from third countries amidst one of the biggest crises in the lemon sector in recent years.

More than 400,000 kilos of lemons will remain unharvested in Spanish producing areas during this disastrous campaign, with producers also in disbelief about the price difference between what they earn and what consumers pay at supermarket shelves, of more than 1,300%. It is the product with the greatest imbalance between the prices at origin and at destination.

In this context, during the session held on May 13, the councilors of the Port of Cartagena agreed, among other things, that the traffic of imported fruits and vegetables would maintain a 15% discount, and they stated this in their proposal sent to State Ports as part of their business plan for 2025.

The Unión de Uniones is urging State Ports not to approve any business plan of Spanish ports that subsidizes non loss-making imported agro-food products in Spain, or those that are in a crisis situation. "Large importing companies, many of them local, should pay the right price for the use of a public infrastructure, such as the ports," says the organization.

Over the last decade, citrus imports from third countries have arrived mostly from Argentina, with 521,703 tons (with a large part of that being lemons), despite the market closure to their exports for several seasons due to phytosanitary problems. Other leading origins are Morocco with 231,377 tons, Egypt with 197,402, Uruguay with 108,271, and South Africa, with 103,478 tons.

In 2023, more than 199,000 tons of imported citrus fruits arrived in Spain through its ports. It was the year with the highest volume on record. As for the last decade, the total comes to 1.29 million tons.

Last year, the majority of imported citrus arrived through the port of Algeciras, with 73,845 tons, followed by Cartagena, with 64,776 tons, Castellon with 37,883, and Valencia, with 8,221. The data available for 2024 also shows that a good part of the imports that arrived via Valencian ports are being diverted mainly to the port of Cartagena, in light of the announcement of the elimination of port discounts for imported citrus in Castellon and Valencia.

This evident surge in imports is one of the factors of the 180-degree turn experienced in the second part of the citrus campaign, with a significant drop in the prices paid to producers after a fairly reasonable start.

"Imports have destabilized the campaign in the end, with lower prices both for fresh and industrial products, to the point that we are going to end the campaign quite badly," says the Unión de Uniones, which insists on asking the European Union to guarantee "reciprocity in all trade agreements with third countries." They also ask for "a review of the impact of the treaties signed with some countries, such as Egypt, Turkey, South Africa and Morocco." The organization also argues for the need of strict plant health protocols to prevent the entry of pests, the extension of cold treatment regulations to mandarins, lemons and grapefruits, and not just for oranges from South Africa, the elimination of discounts in Spanish ports that facilitate the entry of foreign citrus fruits, such as those of Algeciras and Cartagena, as well as stricter controls and phytosanitary surveillance from the Border Inspection Posts (BIP).

For more information:
Union of Unions

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