Agriculture is one of the sectors of the economy in which the price of the products is set by the market and not by the producer. It depends on supply and demand, and other factors which are impossible to control, such as the growth of the same products in rival countries.
At present, two products in particular are suffering a price crisis. The citrus fruit sector, where prices are nearly 50 per cent lower than last year, and olive oil, where prices have dropped between 30 and 35 per cent. However, they are not alone. Avocado producers have also been affected by a drop in prices, although these are now recovering. Others such as asparagus, garlic, mango and tomatoes were in a similar situation last year.
At the moment citrus fruit producers are not earning enough to cover their costs, and a similar situation is affecting the olive growers whose products are used for oil.
Guillermo Aranda is the head of 'Citrimasat', the association of citrus fruit growers in Cártama. It has around 50 members, who produce oranges, mandarins, lemons and grapefruit in the Guadalhorce Valley. He says the present situation is disastrous for producers because prices are so low, but "we are still collecting the harvest, not because it is profitable but because we have to think about the next one. If we leave the fruit on the trees, they won't produce as much next time," he explains. Low demand is also exacerbating the situation. "It is incomprehensible that people aren't buying oranges, which are high in vitamin C, when the price is so low," he says.
The farmers believe they just have to hope things improve. "Some people say we should grow something else instead, but it's not that easy," says Aranda.
Olive growers feel the same. As many trees grow on mountainsides, the olives used for oil have to be picked by hand, which involves costs of around 3.20 euros per kilo. If the oil is sold for less, they lose money. The bad news is that the ministry for Agriculture thinks things could get worse as the year goes on. At present olives for extra virgin oil are being sold for 2. 47 euros a kilo, 2.13 euros a kilo for virgin oil and the lampante olives for 1.97 euros a kilo.