Amid Protests, Spain's Agriculture Minister Pledges Support to Farmers

Luis Planas has announced a number of measures aimed at helping producers cope with low prices and increasing production costs. He also met with olive oil producers to discuss self-regulation.

Feb. 6, 2020
By Daniel Dawson

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Spain’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has announced a series of mea­sures to address the crescen­do­ing con­cerns of farm­ers and pro­duc­ers who have been protest­ing across the coun­try since late January.

The announce­ment comes a day after hun­dreds of pro­tes­tors gath­ered in front of the min­istry in Madrid to demand sup­port for farm­ers and pro­duc­ers suf­fer­ing from per­sis­tently low prices and ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs.

Our agri­cul­tural sec­tor, our farm­ers and ranch­ers are ask­ing for respect and under­stand­ing. And this gov­ern­ment shares this feel­ing of respect, under­stand­ing and sup­port because with­out farm­ers and ranch­ers, we would not have the Spain that we want.- Luis Planas, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

Luis Planas announced that the min­istry would meet with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from across the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, includ­ing the lead­ers of the protests, to dis­cuss pos­si­ble reforms to the food chain law and changes to the laws gov­ern­ing inter­pro­fes­sional organizations.

These reforms would increase the bar­gain­ing power of agri­cul­tural coop­er­a­tives with exporters and dis­trib­u­tors. They would also demand that pro­duc­tion costs are fac­tored into agri­cul­tural con­tracts between farm­ers and dis­trib­u­tors, and impose harsher pun­ish­ments on com­pa­nies that breach their con­tracts with farmers.

See Also: Olive Oil Prices News

Additionally, the min­istry will con­vene an emer­gency meet­ing of the food chain price obser­va­tory, which will study price move­ments on prod­ucts, such as olive oil, fruits and veg­eta­bles, and make pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions based on those findings.

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Planas also announced a plan to increase the amount of money in the ministry’s bud­get to sup­port the agri­cul­tural insur­ance sys­tem, a key tool to reim­burse farm­ers in case of pro­duc­tion loss due to cli­matic adversities.

The fund had been frozen at €211 mil­lion ($232 mil­lion) per annum in recent years, but the min­istry has since increased the amount of fund­ing avail­able by €60 mil­lion ($66 million).

On Thursday, the min­is­ter met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the table olive and olive oil sec­tors to dis­cuss self-reg­u­la­tion mea­sures, which would allow Spain’s Interprofessional Olive Oil Organization to con­trol how much olive oil is avail­able on the mar­ket; the improve­ment of qual­ity stan­dards and trace­abil­ity; and ways in which to increase exports of both olive oil and table olives to non-European countries.

The meet­ings took place with the back­drop of mod­est price increases for vir­gin, extra vir­gin and lam­pante olive oils at the begin­ning of the month, which have been attrib­uted to the European Union’s pri­vate stor­age ten­der­ing scheme.

Since the third ten­der­ing period – in which pro­duc­ers are paid to remove their olive oil from the mar­ket for a min­i­mum of 180 days – closed at the begin­ning of the month, 171,000 tons have been removed from the market.

At the meet­ing, Planas told mem­bers of the olive oil sec­tor that the Spanish gov­ern­ment is in the process of final­iz­ing an agree­ment with Brussels to allow for self-reg­u­la­tion in the olive oil indus­try for the upcom­ing 2020 harvest.

Planas hopes that with self-reg­u­la­tion, pro­duc­ers will expe­ri­ence less price volatil­ity and the pre­vail­ing mar­ket imbal­ances that have tanked prices since the begin­ning of 2019 can begin to self-correct.

The impacts of the United States tar­iffs on olive oil and green olive imports was also dis­cussed at the meet­ing. Planas said that the gov­ern­ment would con­tinue to lobby the European Commission for aid for producers.

With regard to the U.S. tar­iffs on black olives that were imple­mented in August 2018, Planas said the gov­ern­ment would con­tinue to appeal them with the rel­e­vant author­i­ties (the European Commission and World Trade Organization) and seek fur­ther mea­sures of sup­port for table olive producers.

Specifically, Planas hopes to increase the amount of fund­ing that table olive pro­duc­ers receive from the E.U. to pro­mote their prod­ucts in new inter­na­tional mar­kets. The E.U. has already pro­vided €5 mil­lion ($5.49 mil­lion) for such schemes since the begin­ning of 2019.

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