The price crisis of Almeria's horticultural products is hitting a strategic sector that, in addition to producing food to supply all of Europe, generates thousands of jobs in the province. In the case of cucumbers, this has led to the proposal to withdraw 30% of the marketable production in order to try to raise prices, as cultivation is currently unviable. But what is causing this situation?
According to Raúl Gómez Martínez, a producer from La Mojonera, the last month has been “terrible” in terms of prices, not only for cucumbers, but also for eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers or zucchini. “Prices have fallen really well below the production costs,” says the producer.
When asked about the decision to destroy a good part of the volume, he is not particularly optimistic about the short-term results. "We take what we harvest to the marketers, and these, according to the agrarian associations, are destroying 30% of what we harvest to bring stability to the market," he says. However, he wonders whether this measure will be effective, "as the production from third countries continues to arrive, making it difficult for it to happen in the short term."
He says that the low prices can be explained, on the one hand, by the "high temperatures" that have caused "a lot of kilos" to be produced in a short period of time, as well as the uncontrolled arrival of imports from third countries which are "saturating the market."
Regarding this last point, he highlights the problem posed by the relabeling carried out by some companies. Very recently, the Government of Andalusia reported that almost 400 specific inspections had been carried out in Almería against the relabeling of fruit and vegetable products imported from non-EU countries to make them look as if they were foods of Spanish origin. This has led to sanctions being imposed on 11 companies in the province of Almería.
Another problem, according to the producer and the agricultural organizations, is that the products imported from third countries do not offer the "same guarantees" as those harvested in Spain. "Here we are required to have a zero waste policy, a quality seal, etc., and these countries are not being required to meet those same standards. This results in unfair competition," he says.
Lastly, Gómez Martínez highlights the gap between the prices that producers receive and what the consumers pay at the points of sale. “In my case, I am selling cucumber for 5-10 cents per kilo. You go to the supermarket and they cost 1.80 or 2 Euro. There are some in the chain who are filling their pockets at the expense of the producer and the consumer,” he says.