VALENCIA – The Navelina orange, mainly grown in the Valencia region, is having its worst season in years. Farmers cannot even cover their costs. Moreover, the demand is insufficient to sell all oranges.
Farmer Salvador Juan from Tavernes de la Valldigna, a municipality in Valencia known for its Navelina orange, predicts he will not sell even 20% of his oranges. As the cause, he points to the citrus fruits from South Africa that have flooded the European market. This is why prices have fallen and farmers sell at a loss.
Trade agreement between EU and South Africa
According to agricultural interest groups, the trade agreement between the European Union and South Africa is one of the main causes of the price crisis. A crisis that mainly punishes the farmer. “The commercial agreements give so much flexibility to the import of fruit from other countries that the companies have imported oranges en masse and have not bought ours,” summarise
es Carles Peris. He is a citrus grower and general secretary of La Unió de Llauradors of the Valencian Community.
The sector thus strongly denounces the massive import of South African oranges. As a result, mainly foreign oranges are now in de supermarkets and greengrocers to compete directly with the Valencian orange.
Powerlessness of smaller orange producers
Socialist MEP and member of the European Parliament’s International Trade Commission, Inmaculada Rodríguez Piñero, says more factors could explain the crisis. For example, the inability of small producers to set prices in the face of the power of large trading companies.
“The situation could get even worse, as tariffs will most probably disappear altogether by 2025,” Peris warns.
In other words, the agreement between the EU and South Africa aims to put an end to mandatory access charges on the Community market. In reality, this means”more fruit is offered than requested”.
Far below production price
The effect is noticeable in the bottom prices. The farmer, the last link in the chain, receives no more than 9 cents per kilo of oranges. That is, below production costs. In Juan’s case, they can be around 18 cents. That figure is a long way from the final price the consumer pays. According to the farmers’ association AVA-Asaja, this leaves the producer completely unprotected.
Orange farmer unprotected
Each link in the chain calculates the production costs plus the profit margin. Except for the farmer without room for negotiation. Since there is no food chain law protecting the farmer, the sale of the Navelina orange is allowed below the production price. Thus, the recent reform has not served to set a floor price below which sales would be prohibited.
In addition, a perfect storm contributes this year due to the unprecedented increase in production costs. According to the calculations of the associations, the electricity used to extract the irrigation water has become 270% more expensive; tractor diesel, 73%; fertilizers, 48%; and water, 33%.
Read also: Seville oranges fit for a queen