Demonstrations by tens of thousands of farmers across Spain in recent days are testimony to their fears about a growing list of complaints, including dwindling prices and the impact of Brexit and US tariffs.
The Spanish protests have left Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez scrambling to contain the unrest as his new Socialist-led government settles into office.
A similar sense of angst has led farmers onto the streets in countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland in recent months. Hundreds of their peers in the UK will gather in London on March 25 to urge the government to safeguard British farming standards in post-Brexit trade deals.
Spain is the largest producer of fruit and fresh vegetables in the EU, accounting for around one-quarter of production value, according to the bloc’s statistics agency.
That means the outcome of the talks between farmers and the government could ultimately impact the cost of those products. In a sign of how dire the outlook is for olive producers in particular, many growers say they are letting their fruit rot on the trees because the cost of picking them exceeds what they can earn selling them.
“Everything has exploded at the same time,” said Gabriel Trenzado, technical director at Spain’s Agro-alimentarias cooperative, which represents hundreds of olive growers. The US administration’s tariffs have hit profits and “there’s frustration in the atmosphere,” he added.