The statements of the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, in the press conference after the last Council of Ministers on Tuesday, pointing to the large distributors of the country as a large part of the problem facing the agricultural sector, have alerted the chains of supermarkets Some words endorsed yesterday by the President of the Government in Brussels, urging distribution companies to “take an exam and have self-criticism.” That is why, from Agriculture, several meetings with the main supermarkets will be called to negotiate on the value chain of agricultural products. Yesterday, Carrefour started this round.
The big chains, however, defend themselves against these statements. First, they explain that, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and fruit and vegetable exporters, 80% of the production in this sector is destined for export, while 20% for its national commercialization. Of that percentage, they add, only 7% ends in the supermarket and hypermarket lines. “Pretending that the big distribution is to blame for the situation is to simplify the debate a lot,” said sources in the sector.
In addition, they do not understand that they are placed in the focus of the problem of low prices at the origin of agri-food products when there are more edges in the chain, although they point out that they are willing to collaborate to provide solutions to this problem but with a clear condition: “The only red line in this distribution debate is that the consumer does not pay the inefficiencies of the chain as a whole,” said ABC from Asedas, one of the employers of the sector and which includes companies such as Mercadona and Dia.
That same message is shared by both the employer of the large Anged company and the aforementioned employer of Asedas supermarkets. All of them are willing to collaborate to address the global problem and that is why they celebrate that from Agriculture it has been convened for next week to the Price Observatory. But despite this will, supermarkets point out that a rigorous analysis must be done to identify all the causes and not focus only on them, since they understand that it is a complex problem. «It has many different causes. From international markets, Trump’s tariffs, the weather, to the rise in the minimum wage, ”explained Asedas.
Farmers, however, point out that there is a lot of difference between the starting price of the product of the land and the final price. The supermarkets do not take away from that claim of the farm workers, but they defend themselves by pointing out that between the output of the land until it reaches the store there is an extensive distribution chain where each link provides some value. “A lemon in a tree 200 kilometers away can not be worth the same as when it is available to the consumer in an establishment less than a minute from his home,” explains the president of Aces, Aurelio del Pino. He also adds that «from the person who collects the lemon to the one who transports it to the agricultural center, those who carry out the selection, cleaning processes, quality, packaging, distribution, in addition to the staff working in the supermarket itself who are also entitled to a remuneration for their work ».
Another claim of the companies is that the margins of all links in the food chain are adjusted to be able to compete efficiently in a distribution market as fierce as the Spanish, so an artificial rise in prices sees it as a mistake. «Ten minutes from our house all Spaniards have many places to buy. That ability to choose becomes an efficient price formation. Because if you are not competitive in price, people go to another supermarket », they come from Asedas. A reflection that also supports Aces, which indicate that the margins of the sector move between 1 and 2% only.
Likewise, the employers explain that the only link in the chain that cannot establish its price at source is the producer, to be subject to circumstances that it does not control: international markets, crops that increase or decrease according to seasonality and weather conditions, between others. «The rest of the chain prices are set efficiently. It is true when they say that the rest of the links increase margins when costs increase. Transportation, for example, is 10% of the cost in most fruits and vegetables. And that cost is impeccable because you have to bring the product closer to the consumer », they defend.
On the other hand, in its statements on Tuesday, Planas presented other measures that do have the support of the distribution. The first one is to try to generate larger cooperatives. It is currently a very atomized sector in our country and is one of the reasons why the sales prices are lower, since the distribution chains buy the products from them. And although our country is one of the largest agricultural producers in Europe, no cooperative is among the fifty largest in the continent.
They also support the government initiative to improve the law of the food chain in order to give stability to commercial relations by generalizing the contracts. «We need suppliers from the agricultural sector that have the capacity to guarantee both supply and prices. We need an integrated chain that allows us to do what we do sustainably, ”they say.
From the field to the store: the price of potatoes, 275% more
One of the biggest complaints of the farmers is the big difference that exists in the price of the agricultural product from when it leaves the land until it arrives at the supermarket to be sold. A claim that is true, but that from the supermarket employers argue that there is a chain where each link adds value to the product. Thus, in the Price Observatory, available on the Agriculture website, you can read the contribution of each element of the chain. They are data from 2011, but from the sector they point out that there is not much difference with today. In ABC we have taken as an example the life of potatoes and their increase in cost. According to the website, its price grows 275% at the end. Initially, the price of the farmer ranges between 0.17 and 0.28 euros per kilo. From there it goes through the corridor / warehouseman, packer, wholesaler (each with its costs and a higher price of potatoes) to finally reach the store, where the price is between 0.68 and 1, 04 euros the kilo. .