Las Cuerdas, one of Almería’s oldest farms, which is now owned by the family who own Alsa buses, is in controversy for expanding profits and employing more workers. In the last 10 years they have gone from 50 workers to 200, housed in modern accomodation on the outskirts of the farm, and they have been praised as model employers. This year, they have sold 3,5 million euros worth of products.
The controversy? They cut out Spain’s antiquated system of middlemen to sell directly to Asda in the UK.
The system of fruit buying, as I understand it, is an antiquated system of middlemen, having been built up in the days when there were lots of small farms. So your orange goes from a little chap in Antas to the towns coop, which sells it onto the area coop, which passes it onto the regional coop, which passes it onto the provincial coop, who sell it through the provincial fruit market coop…… it can go through four or six layers, each layer adding a few cents onto the cost of that orange, but (they claim) as the piles of oranges get bigger then they can negotiate better prices for all. Larger farms are expected to play along.
The Brits, who keenly eye the bottom line, aren’t happy with all this continental socialism nonsense and prefer to buy direct from source, which keeps the costs down in Barnsley. Las Cuerdas were more than happy to do so.
Long story short, Las Cuerdas and Asda make money and 200 people are employed. On the other side of the coin, that six layers of (unnecessary) fruit handlers aren’t, and they argue that if they go out of business, so will all the little local farmers (hmm). As a consumer of oranges, I like ’em cheap, fruity, round and with as few pesticides as possible. As a local, I like employment.
Ah, what the heck. Bit of consolidation won’t harm the industry. Plus, farmers are always complaining that they’re not paid enough for their produce, compared with supermarket prices, and the reason for that is the six layers of added fruit handling. There’s probably a deep economic insight into the industry I’m on the verge of, but work calls…