"The price of food goes up, but we charge the same"

"Consumers must be clear that it has been intermediaries and supermarkets that have raised the price of food," defends Pere Guinovart, territorial coordinator of Unió de Pagesos in Tarragona, who in turn describes the situation as "fateful" farmers live. In this sense, he regrets that production costs have increased by more than 50% on average, but they continue to be paid the same as before for their products. At the same time, agricultural cooperatives are demanding measures to reduce energy bills, since they consider that the increase in these production costs is already "unsustainable" and ensure that they cannot be passed on to consumers. All this after food prices have skyrocketed again in the month of October, 15.4% compared to the same month in 2021.

"Electricity, phytosanitary products, fertilizers, diesel... everything has become more expensive, making an average of more than 50%," laments Guinovart, of which he denounces that "we have to assume them, we lose money because we they pay for what we produce at ruinous prices, below production costs”. And the fact that the farmers lose money, maintains the representative of the agricultural union, "is the reason that in five years some 600 young people have left the sector in Catalonia. When we're not around, I don't know who will produce the food”, he says.

The same thing is denounced by Joan Carles Gual, a farmer from La Riera de Gaià, whose olive trees this year have produced so few fruits that he has decided not to harvest the olives so as not to lose more money. Something better was the hazelnut harvest. On this, Gual explains that "it was not extraordinary, it was good, and they paid us 10 cents more than last year, but the increase in production costs has been much higher and to have obtained the same benefits as other years they would have to having paid 50 or 60 cents more per kilo».

Along the same lines, agricultural cooperatives are crying out for help. The Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Catalonia (FCAC) warns that the increase in production costs is "unsustainable", especially those related to energy, which have tripled in the last year. Its president, Ramon Sarroca, says that it is "impossible" to transfer this increase to the final consumer and, in view of this, calls for measures to prevent food from becoming even more expensive. Thus, the FCAC proposes that cooperatives be excluded from paying the compensation for the Iberian exception to gas companies, a measure that would reduce the energy bill by 50%, and that the power of the contracted light can be modified twice a year, with which they would save up to 75% the cost of light power.

To all this, Miquel Àngel González, president of the Sant Isidre de Constantí Agricultural Cooperative, explains that this aid is necessary because the transformation costs of the cooperatives can no longer be passed on, because if not, they do not sell. "We peasants are losing profit margin and many of the farms are no longer profitable and are left abandoned," laments González, who adds that "people think that if there are no farmers here, products from other countries will be imported, but then it explodes a war like the current one and we were left short of many foods. On the other hand, the president of the Constantí cooperative also warns that if we choose this model of living solely from industry and tourism, without taking agriculture into account, "the territory, which is like a garden, remains in poor condition , and uncontrolled fires break out, for example. It is not only about producing food, but also about taking care of the environment », he warns.

On the other hand, Guinovart maintains that, in some cases in which large stores launch product offers at very low prices, consumers should be aware of what they must pay farmers for that product. Regarding this, Josep Espluga, a professor at the Department of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), laments that "buying products on sale often affects the economic viability of producers."

The sociologist explains that peasants produce food that they sell to processing industries or distributors. «The latter are the ones that impose the conditions, not only in terms of prices, but also aesthetic qualities, dimensions, etc. Normally, farmers have very little power to negotiate these conditions," says Espluga, who laments that "as it is currently configured, the agri-food system has completely disconnected production from consumption, reorganizing it at the service of those actors who control logistics and distribution of goods. In the Catalan case, for example, it is known that large distribution companies represent only 14% of the establishments but invoice two thirds of the business volume, which means an enormous concentration of power in the face of which farmers can do little» . In addition, he points out that the fact that farmers work with a perishable material that is difficult to store in the long term, makes it easier for them to be forced to accept almost any condition imposed by the large distribution companies.

In this context, defends Espluga, "when consumers go to buy food at large stores, we contribute to strengthening the power of these companies and, consequently, weakening the position of peasants." Finally, he concludes by ensuring, as Guinovart also does, that one way to avoid this is with local, zero-kilometre and seasonal purchases.

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