A campaign to boycott Spanish strawberries, launched in Germany in the name of environmental protection, has provoked the fury of farmers and the Spanish right, prompting a German parliamentary delegation, visiting Spain, to suspend its work on Monday. It is "a harsh and unjustified attack on the agricultural sector of our country," denounced in a statement the agricultural union Asaja, deploring an "aggression against thousands of producers and their families who work hard all year round to support their farms".
This campaign targeting strawberries grown in the province of Huelva, Andalusia, in the south of the country, the leading exporter of red fruits in Europe, "harms the whole" of the sector, said for its part the interprofessional association of the Spanish strawberry, Interfresa. At the heart of this controversy: a call for a boycott launched by the German citizens' organization Campact, signed by more than 162,000 people and calling on the main German supermarkets, such as Lidl and Edeka, to remove strawberries produced in this province from their stalls.
The NGO intends to denounce a bill of the Andalusian regional government, in the hands of the People's Party (PP, right), aimed at regularizing illegal red fruit farms located near the Doñana Natural Park, a place of refuge for millions of migratory birds. According to environmental associations, this initiative could lead to the legalization of 1500 hectares of crops, mostly irrigated by clandestine wells. Enough to jeopardize the future of this emblematic reserve classified by UNESCO, now threatened by desertification. "If the Andalusian regional government succeeds, there will be even more water used for strawberry cultivation," which will amount to "destroying this fragile ecosystem," says Campact, which calls on German consumers to stop buying "strawberries from drought."
This campaign was denounced last week by the PP, which says it wants to redress an injustice caused by a previous law in 2014 that regularised 9000,<> hectares of illegal crops... but leaving aside several hundred farmers. The Huelva strawberry is the victim of "unfair attacks", motivated by "ideological issues", lamented Carmen Crespo, responsible for agricultural issues in the Andalusian regional government, accusing the Spanish central government, led by the left, of supporting Campact.
On Monday, this controversy escalated around the visit of a delegation of nine German parliamentarians of all political persuasions on the consequences of drought and "illegal water withdrawal" in the Doñana region. This "visit of German deputies" who "try to control the production of our farmers (...) is absolutely unacceptable. This is an interference that no decent government should tolerate," said Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party, which supports the PP initiative in Andalusia.
A speech relayed by the Asaja union, which accused Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of supporting this "smear campaign" for political purposes, in a context of "confrontation" exacerbated by the campaign for the early legislative elections on July 23.
Opposed to the regularization of illegal farms, Pedro Sánchez continues to accuse the PP and Vox of climate "negationism" and has warned the Andalusian authorities against possible European sanctions. In this explosive context, the delegation of German MPs announced late Monday morning the suspension of its visit, which was to end Friday, "given the political importance" taken by this trip "in the context of the next general elections". "This trip was to serve a technical exchange" in "the interest of our two countries," regretted the delegation in a statement, hoping to "continue this exchange in the future".
According to Interfresa, the province of Huelva produces 300,000 tons of strawberries per year, more than 90% of Spanish production, and generates nearly 100,000 direct jobs. Germany is its largest export market, with an estimated annual turnover of €186 million. At the beginning of 2022, about <> European supermarket chains, including Lidl, Aldi or Sainsbury's, had already called on the Andalusian government to abandon its project.