Wed, Jul 30, 2014 - Page 15 News List

French, Spanish ‘peach war’ brewing

FRUIT FIGHT:The head of a French fruitgrowers group said the conflict between the two nations has never been so bad and accused Spanish farmers of dumping

AFP, PARIS

France is stepping up cargo checks on trucks carrying fruit over the border from Spain in what is increasingly looking like a “peach war” between the EU neighbors.

In the past two weeks, 150 trucks have been stopped and 10 infractions recorded, the French Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry on Monday said on receiving French fruit growers who have complained of what they see as unfair “dumping” of produce in their home market.

France’s operation to make sure the trucks “respect the rules for the sale of fruit and vegetables” will continue in the coming weeks, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Stephane Le Foll said after the meeting.

He added that the European Commission had been asked by France, Spain, Greece and Italy to consider putting in place “exceptional market-managing measures” in the sector.

The French fruit-growers’ anger is boiling over amid fears that their industry is on the verge of disappearing entirely because of diving prices. Farmland across France given over to growing peaches and nectarines has halved in size over the past decade.

Luc Barbier, head of the French fruitgrowers’ federation FNPF, said that the conflict between French and Spanish producers has never been so bad.

The Spanish counterparts are practicing “trade dumping to kill the French market in order to be the only suppliers,” he said, calling for stepped-up border checks to verify the origin, quality and price of fruit cargos.

The head of the broader FNSEA farmers’ federation, Xavier Beulin, said the problem went beyond peaches and nectarines. He said the dispute also impacted farmers selling tomatoes, melons, cucumbers and strawberries.

“The core problem is the cost disparity with Spain which means we can’t be competitive,” he said.

However, Spain’s FEPEX federation of fruitgrowers and exporter, denied the French accusations.

“The fruit crisis is affecting all European producers,” it said, slamming recent attacks on Spanish trucks.

FEPEX also called on the EU to take urgent steps to support the fruit market, underlining the importance of the fruit sector to Spain’s economy.

Last year, Spain exported 910,000 tonnes of fruit with stones (peaches and the like), bringing in nearly 1 billion euros (US$1.3 billion).

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