Farmers’ protest in southern Spain: crops burned or thrown away

by admin
crops burned

Earlier this year, farmers from the Axarquía region in Málaga gave away 3,000 kilos of lemons to passers-by in protest. “We would rather give these organic lemons away than sell them for 8 cents per kilo.” Now plumes of smoke regularly rise in the region. These come from the fires in which lemons or other agricultural crops are burned.

In other places, garbage containers are full of lemons or fruits such as kumquats (a type of citrus fruit, related to the orange). Farmers refuse to sell their products for less than cost price. It is not worth earning 8 cents on a kilo of lemons while their production costs you 40 cents per kilo, says Francisco Marín, a farmer from Benamargosa who previously also handed out his lemons to passers-by in Vélez-Málaga. Citrus farmers, but also growers of tropical fruits such as avocados and mangoes, are desperate because of the low prices they receive for their products.

“Who is earning here?”

“Until November the price was very good, about one euro, but suddenly it plummeted and last time they gave me 8 cents per kilo. I have 60,000 kilos to collect on my two hectares,” Marín explained in the SUR newspaper. According to Marín, the large price drop is the result of the import of cheap citrus fruits from countries such as Africa and South America. These products are then available in the supermarket for €2 per kilo. “Who is earning here?” Marín wonders. And “why is the government not doing anything?” As a result, farmers prefer to leave their products on the tree, burn or throw them away rather than sell them.


Esther Rasenberg

Cogesa Expats

Regulation necessary

According to Francisco Moscoso of the small farmers’ union UPA, regulation of products intended for human consumption is necessary. The Food Chain Act states that farmers’ contracts must be legalised from January 1 of this year. “In many cases this is not met, and that is what we are in favour of, to expose the lack of compliance with farmers’ contracts,” he said in the Malaga Hoy newspaper.

Citrus fruits imported

The UPA has asked the Junta de Andalucía for regulations that “represent the interests of farmers”. This would mean that all lemons from third countries would have to comply with the same phytosanitary standards as farmers in Spain do. Moscoso says that the lemons sold in major supermarkets come from other countries such as South Africa. The sanitary treatment that the citrus fruits undergo is unknown. Therefore, it is more profitable to get the lemons from outside. “Consumers should look at the label to know where the lemon, orange or mandarin comes from. The problem is that we are not doing that,” the UPA secretary said.

Unity needed

The drought in Málaga has negatively affected the lemon harvest. However, there are still many lemons of good quality and treated under the necessary conditions for human consumption. The UPA has started negotiating the formation of a non-profit organisation to distribute the harvests on acceptable terms. “Although it is difficult to market our lemon with so much supply, it is impossible without unity,” he concludes.

Citrus fruits replaced by avocados and mangoes

Less and less citrus fruits are grown in the eastern region of Málaga. That is not because of the drought. Lemons and oranges have been displaced in recent decades by the rise of subtropical crops such as mangoes and avocados. They are much more profitable, but also require much more water. This is evident now that the region is being hit by extreme drought.

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