A report by the US government warns of the serious damage that the measures taken by the Spanish government to tackle the coronavirus pandemic are causing on the Spanish countryside and agriculture sector.
THE knock-on effects of these measures have caused: a drastic reduction in labour, a drop in consumption and the saturation of storage are causing incalculable losses that, in many cases, will last until next year.
The report, titled ‘Update on the situation of agriculture and food in Spain during the Covid-19’ states that the sectors suffering the greatest damage are horticulture, ornamental plants and dairy. In addition, the closure of the hotel sector has negatively affected sales of Iberian pork, suckling pig, lamb, beef and seafood.
The document, dated April 12 and prepared by the Department of Agriculture of the diplomatic mission in Madrid, affirms that the ‘cross-border restrictions enacted by Spain and neighbouring countries in response to the Covid-19 outbreak have caused a significant shortage of manpower work in critical cultivation regions (Andalucia, Murcia, Extremadura, Aragon, Catalonia, Navarra, Valencia and La Rioja).’
Furthermore, the document states that ‘movement limitations within Spain, such as the minimum number of passengers allowed per vehicle, are slowing down the journey of workers to the field.’
This lack of manpower for the cultivation implies prolonged damages, with serious effects on the harvesting of late blooming citruses or strawberries. According to the report, ‘Spain is a major producer of red, stone and citrus fruits in the European Union. With this season’s strawberry harvest already underway, producers in Andalucia have asked the European Commission to activate extraordinary measures in response to the drop in demand for red fruits (including strawberries) in Spain and the European markets.’
The report also analyses that ‘since the beginning of the outbreak, consumers have opted for less perishable fruits (such as citruses, deciduous fruits and bananas) to the detriment of red fruits.’
The logical effect of this change in consumption is a stabilisation of the price of citrus, which was down before the pandemic. “The growing demand for citrus and the estimated 20 per cent drop in Spanish citrus production by 2020, has normalised the prices of Spanish citrus in the last two weeks. However, the sector guarantees that it has ample supplies for national and European markets,” he adds.
During the horticultural and agricultural harvest season, Spain typically employs up to 150,000 workers, including between 75,000 and 85,000 seasonal workers from Bulgaria, Romania, North Africa and Latin America. The contribution of this industry to the Spanish GDP is about 3 per cent.
Another one of the strongly hit sectors is floriculture, as decrease in demand has fallen 75 per cent. The report assures that Valencia alone will suffer losses of at least €10 million. According to the report, the aid offered by the government ‘may fall short, as the natural flower sector is unlikely to return to normal until February 2021.’