The very low prices of Spanish fruit and vegetables hide a harsh reality for the country’s farmers, who sometimes cannot even cover their production costs.
It’s a bit of a given: fruit and vegetables are cheaper in Spain. Shopping and buying fresh produce at the local Mercadona is cheaper than in France, thanks in part to the large Spanish agricultural production. And yet, these same prices are denounced by Spanish farmers, because they are far too low.
The phenomenon exists in all Spain, and in particular in Catalonia, where small producers denounce the wholesalers and supermarkets who buy their fruits and vegetables at ridiculous prices, so much so that they do not cover their production costs. Costs that are always higher with the record inflation that Spain has experienced in recent months, and the increase in energy prices.
Ridiculous prices for farmers in Spain
The Unió de Pagesos, a Catalan farmers’ union, has even asked the regional Ministry of Agriculture (Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda) to open an investigation. They suspect that wholesalers and supermarkets are breaking the law by buying oranges at a much lower price in recent months. A kilo of clementines or tangerines earns them about € 0.30, while the cost of production was between € 0.42 and € 0.47 per kilo, during the period 2018-2019. If farmers are already in deficit with this margin, the current cost of production is even higher, as it has increased by at least 20% since then. Therefore, Catalan producers sell their citrus fruits at derisory prices, which do not even cover their costs.
The problem has been known for a long time, as it has been denounced for years by a majority of the agricultural sectors in the country. Dairy farmers are in the same situation, selling their milk at €0.36 per liter when they need at least €0.46 per liter to make their production profitable. The same situation exists among wine growers, who denounce well-known groups such as Freixenet for not paying enough for grapes. Producers often receive less than 10% of the price of the bottle, which again does not cover the cost of production.
For the Catalan Farmers’ Union, supermarket chains such as Mercadona, Carrefour, Lidl, Dia, Bon Preu or Condis participate in this practice by buying milk, wine, oil, citrus, fruit and dried fruit, rice, veal and rabbit meat at very low prices, and selling them under a white label that often induce a price below the cost of production and make figures.