“Quel gâchis!” (What a waste!)

Basil Howitt’s otherwise idyllic summer was marred only by the relentless dumping of fruit and vegetables at local supermarket entrances and elsewhere.

With these actions we are reduced to pointing out that if we are losing money, the big distribution outlets will also do so. We are aiming to ruin those who are ruining us when, at the start of the new school term, the supermarkets cannot tolerate empty car parks.
[ Gérard Majoral, leader of the fruit and veg sector of the Federation of Farmers’ Unions, Pyrénées-Orientales ])]

For me, our truly glorious high summer up here in the Agly valley has been marred by only one series of events: the senseless dumpings, in total, of 200 or more tonnes of vegetables and fruits. Tipper lorries have been doggedly ejecting their loads of peaches, nectarines and tomatoes, not only at local supermarket entrances, but also at motorway access points and at the frontier péage at Le Boulou.
By last Friday 4th September there had been a total of some 10 dumpings, at around 20 tonnes a time. Here is a typical dumping scenario:

Four tipper lorries, nearly a hundred farmers, dumpings at each car park entrance, the police discretely looking on, a palpable tension between those carrying out the dumpings and those who, against their wishes, were the intended recipients. Such was the scenario, identical to the previous ones, of this new demonstration targeting on this occasion Leclerc Sud on the Avenue Dalbiez at Perpignan.
[Jean-Paul Pelras, L’Indépendant, 30th August 2009]

The culprits are the deeply disgruntled local fruit and vegetable farmers affiliated to the FDSEA (Fédération Départementale des Syndicats d’Exploitants Agricoles – or the Département’s Federation of Farmers’ Unions).

3 The gripe 3

Their main gripe is that they can no longer make a living out of growing summer fruit and vegetables because the Spanish growers over the border, as well as Belgian tomato growers, can sell their produce more cheaply to the French supermarkets, who thereby enhance their margins. Most will pay producers no more than c.1.10 euros a kilo for peaches and nectarines. French producers, however, claim their costs work out at 1.35 euros per kilo. Hence they are losing 25 cents a kilo.
Since French employment laws and costs (minimum wages etc) are more stringent than Spanish ones, the French growers expect the French government to make up their shortfalls with subsidies and handouts. So far there has been little sign of this happening. The farmers’ unions have resolved none of their grievances with the Ministry of Agriculture, nor with all the supermarkets who insist on their right to buy from wherever.
Nor has there been any significant sympathy for the farmers’ lot by the majority of bloggers and members of the public whose shopping expeditions and motorway journeys have been seriously disrupted.

3 Ludicrous Lottery 3

The most ridiculous aspect of the FDSEA’s campaign is that it has been indiscriminate. Since the supermarkets targeted by the FDSEA have been selected purely by lottery, some that have actually sold only local produce – Carrefour and Leclerc Sud among them – have been punished along with the rest. The Director of Perpignan’s Carrefour, William Ramos, employs over 400 people. When his branch was blocked by piles of dumped produce on the morning of 22nd August, it lost 250,000 euros worth of business. He was understandably “very disappointed”.

3 Shopi 3

Our own excellent local supermarket in Estagel, Shopi, is run by a charming and friendly Spaniard and his French wife who create all the homeliness of a corner shop. They have been selling Spanish peaches and nectarines. When Shopi was blocked at 6.00am one morning in August any twinges of sympathy we may have had for the fruit farmers evaporated.

3 Cheap fags and booze? 3

It is surely a safe bet that some of these dumpers are among those who join the queues to La Junquera and elsewhere just over the border to buy their cheap pastis, brandy, cigarettes and petrol. In search of the best prices, they will not be too worried by the plights of French buralistes (tobacconists) and garagistes who suffer constantly from the cheaper products available in Spain.

3 Blogs 3

Let two articulate bloggers make the final points:

[(30/08/2009 à 11h03 | Delamer
What a waste! All their fruits destroyed, all that work for nothing. Why don’t the producers organise themselves into a co-operative? … Why don’t they create factories to make jams, fruit cordials (sirops), fruit juices etc [not to mention fruit-based spirits – BWH]? Why always ask the government for help from our taxes … They should meditate on the saying “Help yourself and God will help you.”)]

[(30/08/2009 à 08h37 | ammosyse
If the supermarkets are responsible for the actions of the dumpers, why does one find locally grown fruits and vegetables at markets, stallholders and farms dearer than in the supermarkets? The growers have adopted the annoying habit of demanding help as soon as they are in trouble. Does a house painter demand subsidies when things are not going well? Does a garage owner demand subsidies as soon as he doesn’t have enough customers? Does the hoover salesman get assistance when his sales fall off? No … In these three cases, they have to do something about their problems without demanding state help and without inconveniencing others.)]

Et voilà!

3 “Otherwise idyllic” 3

I said at the beginning that our summer has been glorious. Next time I will try to convince you that it actually was!

3 References and follow up 3
Many editions of L’Indépendant, July and August 2009.
Various television news clips.
[Images of fruit dumping:->http://images.google.com/images?gbv=2&hl=en&sa=1&q=Deversement+%2B+fruits&aq=f&oq=&aqi=&start=0]

© 2009 Basil Howitt

Basil Howitt has also written
[Life in a Penguin Suit->Life in a Penguin Suit] (Camerata Productions 1993)
[Love Lives of the Great Composers->Love Lives of the Great Composers] (Sound and Vision 1995)
[Grand Passions and Broken Hearts: Lives and Lusts of the Great Composers->Grand Passions and Broken Hearts: Loves and Lusts of the Great Composers] (Robson Books 1998)
[More Love Lives of the Great Composers->More Love Lives of the Great Composers] (Sound And Vision 2002)
Walter and His Daughters: The Story of the Carroll Family of Manchester (Forsyth Brothers Ltd 2005)

[(You can contact Basil by email: [basil.howitt@packsurfwifi.com->basil.howitt@packsurfwifi.com])]

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