Farmer protests in Spain in recent days have been tense, the desperation of a strained sector palpable.
Olive and cereal growers, poultry and cattle ranchers are demanding the government act as production costs have exceeded the price they get paid at market. Spain enacted the Food Chain Law in 2013 that requires buyers to pay farmers at least the cost of production, but protestors contend that the law has not been effective. Now, with their costs increasing exponentially while the prices they are paid by supermarkets and distributors remain nearly the same, they are on the brink of collapse.
“Contracts are not being made and the few that are made do not meet the requirement of paying a fair price that covers production costs for the olives,” La Unión Extremadura, a farmers’ association said, defending the protests they have organised.
Two weeks of protests—a strike against what they say is an unfair market—by olive growers in northern Caceres, a province in the southwest of the country, intensified on Friday, September 23, when two protestors were arrested. Farmers blocked the entrance to the olive collective Acenorca and set fire to several containers used as a barricade to prevent trucks from leaving the site, EL Periódico Extremadura reports. On Monday, September 26, another protestor was arrested for throwing rocks at police.
Simultaneously, farmers gathered in Valladolid, the capital of the Castile-León region in north-central Spain, to bring similar complaints to regional, national, and international authorities.
Around 800 farmers—blowing whistles, clanging cowbells, and setting off firecrackers—marched through the city passing by the office of the delegation of the central government on their way to their destination in front of the regional Ministry of Agriculture, Ranching, and Rural Development. The Agricultural Ministry is currently headed by the conservative party VOX. Once here, the protestors gathered behind a banner that read “If the countryside cannot produce, the city cannot eat.”
“There has never been so much concern because production costs are greater than profitability, than the value of production,” warned Donaciano Dujo, the regional president of the farmers’ association ASAJA, local media reported.
Dujo has warned that under the present circumstances, farms “can go back to forty years ago in terms of sowing, production, fertilisers, and agronomic use.”
They were also protesting the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which Dujo described as “retrograde, demagogic, and environmentalist, non-productive and restrictive.”
He also explained the situation of farmers in concrete terms: an agricultural exploitation that in 2020 spent €75,000 to plant 150 hectares, currently has to spend €180,000, without knowing “either whether the crop will grow or at what price he is going to sell the products.”
The protestors demanded the establishment of a price observatory to help hold the supermarket chains and distributors accountable for paying fair prices and a “shock plan” of direct support to farmers on the part of government.
Farmers have been decrying the unfairness of the present situation for months, alleging they are not being paid significantly more for their products even as their production prices have approximately doubled, even while consumer prices paid at supermarkets have skyrocketed.
“Undoubtedly, it is the production farms that are paying the bill for this crisis, along with consumers, because the price of sale to the consumer has been increased without a distribution of this increase throughout the value chain,” three farmers’ associations said in a joint statement from September 20th, in reference specifically to poultry farmers.
Much of Spain’s animal farming functions on an ‘integrated’ system. Farmers called on the association Avianza, the platform that facilitates the integration of the poultry sector between feed suppliers, farmers, and poultry product buyers, to review their contracts. Avianza issued a statement in June calling all those in the food chain to “be responsible.”
Across the sector, farms are warning that rising costs without compensatory market prices are bringing them to ruin, making it difficult to continue farming, and risking food production.