Freshuelva, the association representing strawberry producers and exporters in Huelva, actively participated in a demonstration alongside Spanish growers in Córdoba. Their primary aim was to advocate for a transformation in European agricultural policies that ensure the sustainability of the food system and promote a more professionalized agricultural model.
In solidarity, Freshuelva joined forces with prominent Spanish trade associations, namely Asaja, COAG, UPA, and Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias. Together, they highlighted the pressing issues facing the agricultural sector, which encompass threats from EU policies, escalating unfair competition from non-European nations, rising cultivation expenses, persistent drought conditions, and the financial unviability of crops.
The protest unfolded in Córdoba, strategically coinciding with a meeting between the European Minister of Agriculture and the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Janusz Wojciechowski. The coalition of industry associations called for “coherent political solutions” that address concerns related to climate change, food security, and the safeguarding of Spain’s and Europe’s productive sectors.
The growers underscored the urgency of establishing “new rules of engagement” that prioritize a food production system built on safety and quality as paramount within the EU. They emphasized the necessity for a level playing field, where both European and non-European agricultural products are subject to identical standards. For producer organizations, this entails stringent border controls to ensure that food products adhere to the same phytosanitary, labor, and quality requirements that European producers are obligated to meet.
The demonstrators also expressed their dismay regarding the European Union’s free trade agreements, such as the one with Mercosur, which consistently leverage the agricultural sector in negotiations, ultimately imperiling the existence of numerous farms across Europe.
Freshuelva sounded the alarm, stating that the overall agricultural sector, especially the berry industry, finds itself in dire straits. The situation arises from the exponential increase in production costs, exceeding 35% in 2022, coupled with reduced productivity due to persistent drought conditions and market prices that fail to cover the cost of production.