Tuesday, 23 January 2024, 10:31
Lemons were given away to passersby for free in Malaga city's Plaza de la Marina as numerous farmers from around the province gathered in the prime location to protest their perilous economic situation. The reason? The prices they receive are vastly lower than what the consumer pays in the supermarkets.
A kilo of lemons costs around two euros in supermarkets. What farmers receive at source, at the moment, is around 20 cents. It’s “a disaster” said Alfonso Ramírez, who has an eight-hectare lemon farm. Ramírez is 53 years old and lives in Alhaurín de la Torre. He is one of the many professional farmers who grow citrus fruit in the Guadalhorce Valley. In the present circumstances, it is more profitable for him to let the lemons rot on the tree than to harvest them. And that is exactly what is happening.
"They have just told me that they are paying me 4,000 euros for the 50,000 kilos I have harvested. If I do the maths, they barely pay me twelve cents per kilo," Ramírez said. "I would rather give the lemons away than be robbed," he said indignantly.
When asked who is taking the margins, this farmer replied: "Distributors and supermarkets. They are speculating with our work. They are making money and we farmers don't even have enough to eat." The distribution chain, from the moment the produce is harvested until it ends up on the shelves, is plagued by "profiteers".
Francisco Moscoso, the secretary general of the Union of Small Farmers (UPA) in Malaga, railed against the situation which he considers unsustainable. "It costs the farmer 35 cents to produce a kilo of lemons and they are paying him less than 20 cents. It is not acceptable that the consumer is paying the price in large supermarkets at two euros or more. Here, the food chain law is not working".
In theory, the food chain law, approved by the government in 2021, regulates the process of food formation to guarantee the farmer a fair price, which at no time can be below production costs. In practice, however, the law is not being applied. Moscoso lambasted the government, the Andalusian regional government and the European Union. The current agricultural policies, he said, are endangering the viability of the agricultural sector.
For example, lemons from the Guadalhorce Valley have to compete with lemons from South Africa. "How is it possible to pay these prices to local producers while at the same time allowing supermarkets to fill up with lemons from South Africa?," Moscoso said. He stressed that consumers should look at the origin of the products they consume.
Juan Antonio Siles, UPA's head of communications, said that in recent years the demands made on farmers have increased more and more, due to the demands made by the European Union. These demands are leading to an increase in production costs. "Lemons are the perfect example. Here, a day's work to pick lemons costs farmers around 70 euros. We all want our people to earn more and be able to live in dignity, but then don't allow lemons to come in from South Africa, where the daily wage is five euros,” Siles said.
For now, the farmers' protests will remain symbolic actions such as the one that took place last Thursday in Plaza de la Marina. There were no roadblocks or hints of any violent protests. But, Siles noted, “If it goes on like this, maybe it's time to become a little more like the French.”
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