Catalan agriculture suffers from the “cucumber crisis” due to Germany’s premature accusations
Despite the scientific analysis that proves the innocence of Spanish field products, the demand for vegetables and fruit, not only cucumbers, has harshly hit agriculture throughout Spain. Catalan farmers are also heavily affected, as well as fresh food shopkeepers. Farmers have to drop prices or even destroy the product as demand has plummeted, especially regarding exports. Thousands of tones of oranges are in stock in the Delta de l’Ebre and may rot if demand does not recover soon.
Barcelona (ACN).- In Catalan shops, cucumbers are almost not sold. The same goes for the rest of Europe. Some days ago, supermarkets across Europe were putting up posters indicating they did not have Spanish products. In addition, traders from Germany, but also from other European countries such as Austria or Belgium cancelled most of their orders of Spanish cucumbers. Very soon it was extended to all vegetables and fruits coming from Spain. All these reactions were caused by the alarm created by Germany\u2019s authorities while facing the deaths provoked by the E. coli bacteria. Spanish farmers and politicians have complained and are asking for compensation. They have complained about the alarm but also against a slow reaction from the European food safety authorities. The result of this crisis is that consumption dropped across the European continent and trading demand almost disappeared. Lorries charged with vegetables that were already on the road, some even having left Spain, had to come back. Refrigeration rooms were completely filled with products, while prices plummeted, in some cases with drops up to 90%. With storage rooms full, in the fields, farmers were destroying tons of products that would never be sold. Economic losses are already extremely high, but the sector fears not being able to recover neither in the short nor in the medium-term. Despite scientific analyses having confirmed that the infection does not originate in Spain, consumers do not seem completely satisfied, and the trust is not back yet. Some traders have started to place new orders, but at a very slow pace and very cautiously. Meanwhile, thousands of tonnes of vegetables and fruit are being lost and some farmers fear having to close their business.
Catalonia produces cucumbers mainly in three areas: in the Llobregat Agrarian Park \u2013which is the largest urban agrarian area in Europe, located next to Barcelona\u2013, in the Maresme county \u2013in the North of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area\u2013, and in the South of Catalonia, in the Delta de l\u2019Ebre area. Dalmasi Ramon is a cucumber producer from the Maresme. He produces 50,000 kilos of cucumber per week. He explains that normally sells the product at 60 euro cents the kilo, and these days he is selling at 5, 6 or 7 euro cents the kilo; it means a 90% price drop. \u201CAt that price, it's better not to pick it\u201D he adds. Ramon also explained proudly how cucumbers in the Maresme county are \u201Cproduced to the highest standards\u201D, with many different techniques and quality controls to keep them completely \u201Cclean from fungus and bacteria\u201D. He expects the situation to return to normality in a couple of weeks, or he will have great problems.
However, not only cucumbers are affected. The situation affects all kind of vegetables and fruits. Tomatoes, lettuces, courgettes, eggplants, and leeks are the most affected, but fruit such as melons, watermelons or strawberries as wells. Even oranges are also suffering from the false alarm. Agrofruit is a fruit company from Tortosa, in the Delta de l\u2019Ebre area. Agrofruit has seen how the export of 200,000 kilos of oranges for the German and Austrian markets was cancelled, which is some 30% of the total volume of oranges and tangerines it sells. Other companies are destroying tomatoes, leeks, courgettes, broccoli, etc.
Merkel \u201Cis studying compensation through EU mechanisms\u201D
Now, the situation is also affecting farmers from Central Europe, as especially the summer is when they sell their products for internal market consumption. In addition, they were also selling products to other countries, such as Russia which closed its borders to all European vegetables. This Thursday evening, for the first time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed she would study a way to compensate farmers through European Union mechanisms; Merkel said so now that the crisis is also affecting farmers across the entire continent, including the German ones.