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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

The Farmers' Revolt
Wednesday, February 14, 2024 @ 11:09 AM

The farmers’ protests – roads blocked by legions of (recently washed and highly polished) tractors.

Of course they have a point. The low prices paid for their products versus the high prices they (and everybody else) must pay for food in the supermarkets. Someone is making a fortune, and it clearly isn’t them.

Although – in a small way – farmers or smallholders often trade between themselves: a crate of tomatoes here for a box of potatoes there.

The issue isn’t just a Spanish one – rather, it’s Europe-wide. Control on pesticides and fertilisers; rising costs; over-powerful retailers; cheaper (and un-regulated) imports from outside the EU – and sometimes, even legal imports from within (well we know what the French are capable of). Then there’s the political opportunism coming from here and there; the overwhelming list of regulations and the all-weather work, rain or shine.

Which should be worth something. As they say: ‘No farmers, no food’.   

Small and large farmers are in different leagues of course. We read of ‘the decline of small and medium-sized farmers, ranchers or fishermen. Rising costs (and droughts) have aggravated the difficulties in general and, specifically, the crisis of the traditional model, which has been made up mostly of self-employed workers, favouring the business of large companies in all links of the food chain’.

The number of self-employed farmers has fallen by 20% in the last decade.

One problem is that when there’s a drought, extra efforts are made, such as new desalination plants (with their own pollutive issues and high-energy costs) and government aid – which brings in turn more consumption, more crops, more hotels. The next drought finds the short-fall far worse than the previous one, since the demand is by now much higher.

Another issue are the illegal wells. As the strawberry farmers outside La Doñana say – we all have a right to make money for our families.

The Government has dug deep in the past few years. President Sánchez recently said ‘Since 2022, we have provided 4,000 million euros for the primary sector. Including 1,380 million euros in direct aid and 2,800 million for the modernization of irrigation. A further 6,800 million has come through the European Common Agricultural Policy of which 4,800 million are direct aid together with agricultural insurance”.

In fact, the CAP takes up 30% of the entire EU budget.

The far-right has found the opportunity to their liking, rabble-rousing and attacking the ‘out-of-touch elites’. Meanwhile, one of the small pleasures of the ‘tractoradas’ (as they are called) was watching the populist agitator Alvise Pérez – who just happened to be passing by while shouting ‘Por España’ into a megaphone – being beaten up by the police in a park outside Madrid. He’s involved in stirring things up along with Lola Guzmán (president of the 6F Group) who tells the police at the same event ‘that ETA didn’t kill enough of you people’. Isolated events, perhaps, as the farmers become ever-more indignant. Lola herself is an ex-militant of Vox.

Always a pleasure to see the true patriots at work. With their flags and their hatred.

For most of us, the inconvenience of a group striking for one reason or another is either minor or non-existent – unless they block the roads or close down the flight or train-ride we had booked. In this case, the shops may run out of certain items in the short-term and probably will be obliged to raise their prices once the farmers’ claims have been satisfied.

Regardless of the activities of any fellow-travellers, or practical solutions from the Government, it appears that the tractoradas will continue for a while. The DGT has the real-time road-blocks by the farmers (and all other pertinent road-conditions) here.

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