` Spanish Farmers Threaten to Scrap Harvest Unless Government Acts - Olive Oil Times

Spanish Farmers Threaten to Scrap Harvest Unless Government Acts

Oct. 21, 2010
Daniel Williams

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By Daniel Williams
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Barcelona

The 2010/2011 crop year will begin with the low­est prices in recent years and many Spanish farm­ers, in the face of high har­vest­ing costs, are con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of block­ing the har­vest due to the unprof­itabil­ity of the process.

During an oppor­tunis­tic era when busi­ness ana­lysts feel that olive farm­ers should be mak­ing stronger efforts to invest, olive grow­ers find them­selves faced with a mar­ket prof­itabil­ity that does not cover their own costs of pro­duc­tion. As the cur­rent fig­ures stand, many Spanish farm­ers have cal­cu­lated that col­lect­ing the har­vest would cost them more than what they would poten­tially gain at a later
time after with­hold­ing their prod­ucts from the mar­ket.

Rafael Civantos

Experts already see the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion as highly prob­lem­atic. Taking into account the min­i­mum price per kilo that can be con­sid­ered as prof­itable (2.49 euros/kilo) against the prices and pro­duc­tion of the 2009/2010 sea­son – 567,691 tons with aver­age sell­ing price of 1.81 euros per kilo- ana­lysts cal­cu­late that olive grow­ers from Jaén have already lost some 386 mil­lion euros.[1]

Against this pes­simistic back­drop, thou­sands of olive grow­ers are ques­tion­ing whether it is worth ini­ti­at­ing next year’s olive crop due to the inevitable costs of wages, fuel and machin­ery. Given the pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion of the olive sec­tor and the sit­u­a­tion ahead, COAG-Jaén, one of Spain’s largest agrar­ian unions, warns that it will take action if no price changes are ini­ti­ated by an inter­ven­tion from the cen­tral government’s Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs.

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COAG-Jaén has also raised the issue of ensur­ing a stricter imple­men­ta­tion of puni­tive mea­sures against some of Spain’s biggest bot­tling com­pa­nies that have been accused of fraud­u­lent label­ing and a host of other alleged abuses.

Economic ana­lysts see the pric­ing cri­sis as hav­ing an adverse affect on job cre­ation at a time where Spain’s unem­ploy­ment rate has reached over 20% of the gen­eral population.[2] The num­ber of peo­ple work­ing in the olive oil sec­tor has already dropped in response to falling prices. According to a 2010 report from the Foundation of Rural
Studies, a project asso­ci­ated with the Union of Small Farmers and Ranchers, olive oil sec­tor employ­ees dimin­ished 4% last year to some 786,050 employ­ees in 2009.[3] Even more are expected to be out of work if the sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues.

The sec­re­tary gen­eral of COAG-Jaén, Rafael Civantos explains: The seven mil­lion in wages accounted for in the last cam­paign will defin­i­tively dimin­ish this year because many farm­ers are plan­ning to leave part of their har­vest and not col­lect it, espe­cially
those that are sit­u­ated in moun­tain­ous areas and other inac­ces­si­ble loca­tions.“1

In response, COAG-Jaén has issued a pub­lic warn­ing ask­ing the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to raise olive prices by ini­ti­at­ing another ware­hous­ing cam­paign or through other inter­ven­tion­ist mea­sures. We are fight­ing for every­one and we are not rul­ing out the block­ing of the start of the new cam­paign until mea­sures are taken to solve the crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the olive oil sec­tor in Jaén,“said sec­re­tary gen­eral Rafael Civantos.1

In response to these warn­ings, the min­is­ter of the of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs, Elena Espinosa, has stated that the Spanish gov­ern­ment will not solicit a pri­vate ware­hous­ing cam­paign from the European Union until cer­tain, spec­i­fied con­di­tions are met. She did insist, how­ever, that the Spanish gov­ern­ment will always ini­ti­ate this effort, when the sit­u­a­tion meets the nec­es­sary con­di­tions and rules of the game.”[4]

1 España: blo­quearán el ini­cio de cam­paña si no se toman medi­das anti cri­sis”
2 Instituto Nacional de Estadística
3 Agricultura Familiar en España 2010: Informe Socioeconómico” (PDF)
4 España: Medio Rural reit­era que no solic­i­tará el alma­ce­namiento de aceite”

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