Algarve associations, sector movements and individual farmers sent an open letter to the Minister of Agriculture demanding support for "small producers" and not just companies that use "temporary labor" and without ecological concerns.
In the letter, sent yesterday, April 20, it is read that the “agricultural sector as a whole is being strongly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Therefore, they argue, the Ministry of Agriculture "cannot have double standards for primary operators, which is even contradictory with the campaign "Alimente que Alimenta", which only appeals to awareness to consume national products.
With the current pandemic, "there are many, and in very different situations, agricultural producers who are unable to sell their products", warn subscribers.
«The operators of small fruits – and probably other fruits mainly destined for export – were closed the distribution channels due to the fall in the hotel sector and the fall in exports, as the general closure of the destination markets occurred. Local, street markets were closed to small-scale and local production, orders were canceled in supermarkets and restaurants, this being transversal to the production of fruit and vegetables, livestock production and also for fisheries», the letter states.
But this last sector “suffers blockages and bottlenecks in distribution even outside this Covid-19 scenario”.
Therefore, the subscribers of this letter argue that "we cannot see financial support for the withdrawal from the market of products that are supported in their installation and maintenance phase and that use temporary labor from external sources, maintained in questionable conditions".
The subscribers to the letter refer to large producers of small fruits in large extensions of greenhouses. Recently, the Together Movement for the Southwest also went public to criticize Government support to companies that “destroy” the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina, mainly in the municipalities of Aljezur and Odemira.
In addition, that intensive production “uses internal natural resources (such as water that is increasingly scarce) and leaves no value in the local economy,” reads the letter sent to the minister.
“Over 90% of the production of these fruits is exported and this agricultural model, which only uses the local and natural resources to produce and export, now demands internal support to solve its problem”, complain the subscribers.
For small local farmers, measures are scarce, they denounce. «You can't just watch an awareness campaign to support national production or support measures that require the submission of an application for the “Short Chains and Local Markets” operation».
“Small farmers use the place as the headquarters for their production activities, use natural resources and most of the labor is family and internal, flowing into proximity channels,” says the letter.
Even so, this agriculture “survives relying only on their savings, with the help of some local associations and above all with their resilience, as the Ministry of Agriculture did not consider it urgent to support them directly in a more direct and simple way”, they complain. up the subscribers.
«These are two distinct production models: a very organized one, more resource-consuming (especially water – which in the Algarve cannot be wasted), turned almost exclusively to export (consuming more fossil fuels and energy). The other, without having an organized structure for distribution (given the small scale and diversity of products), but adapted to the food needs of each location, manages resources more sustainably», they argue.
Even at the social level, “these models have very different impacts with regard to the distribution of wealth, contribution to the local economy and, above all, social justice for the workforce”.
"The current commitment to export agriculture is counterproductive and contradictory with the current ecological pact that the European Union has committed itself to with its member states, in a commitment to local production and more sustainable modes of production."
For this reason, the “social component must be taken into account so that human rights are not compromised”.
«At all levels (food, industrial, technological), each country has to ensure independence in its production, in order to make a more adequate management of its natural resources and others and not be left deprived in crisis situations like this one».
It is for this reason that these associations, movements and farmers ask for “correct and fair measures, in defense of the safeguarding and reinforcement of autonomy, diversity, freshness and food quality”.
The letter leaves some examples of initiatives, «such as the reopening of producers' markets that have closed, creating, to that end, adequate prevention measures that allow production to be transported and the supply of fresh, quality products, as well as support. to small producers in situations of loss of flow and availability of non-refundable financial support, encouraging the development of production to supply local markets and short circuits».
To this is added the «support in the absorption of national production, through other proximity outlets, such as public canteens and, in some cases, such as fruit, through large distribution, with protection measures so that the prices charged are not unfair'.
Finally, the letter calls for a "reinforcement of confidence in the primary sector to continue its food production activity".
"With these measures only, the primary sector, especially small-scale agriculture with a view to the national market, will feel confident in this Ministry to continue working and contributing to feed the country", he justifies.
In the letter, the subscribers propose to Maria do Céu Albuquerque, Minister of Agriculture, a “work of concertation with other government portfolios and local authorities”, challenging the creation of “all measures that are identified as necessary to fully support a more sustainable agriculture. sustainable and local, in full harmony with the natural resources available in each region, as it is important to take into account the specificities and carrying capacity”.
Because, as they explain, “this is a difficult time, with economic and social consequences that will linger over time, well beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. In these moments, it is important to analyze processes and measures, reflect on paths, consider the best knowledge available at the time, on the appropriate decisions that must be taken. In the economy, the path of exports has been pointed out to us and the response to internal needs has been little taken care of».
To read the full letter, click here
Almargem Association, Association of Lands and Peoples of the Mediterranean Diet, Slow Food Movement of the Algarve, Glocal Movement Faro and farmers Ângela Rosa, Carlos Cabrita, Humberto Costa, Isabel Sousa, Júlia Coelho, Paula Dias, Paula Pedro, Paulo Belchior, Paulo Dias, Rosa Dias, Rui Vieira and Susana Belchior.
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