Fruit has gone up at more than three times the rate of general living costs, by two-thirds in 12 years and by 14 percent in the past year, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE). Only cigarettes, up by 102 percent and university tuition fees, which have increased by 68 percent, fruit has gone up in price more than any other consumer goods or services since before the start of the financial crisis.
Weekly fruit shopping cost €20 just over a decade ago, but now comes in at €33 – yet farmers are not benefiting from this increase and conclude that retailers must be giving themselves a higher profit margin.
A national farming union, the UPA, says the fruit industry is ‘rife with speculation’ and agricultural workers are having to produce far more nowadays just to break even, and many are dropping out of the sector altogether.
Stallholders believe the price hike must be due to climate change and shrinking harvests.
In fact, some fruit farmers – particularly watermelon-growers in the provinces of Almería and Murcia – are considering giving up because they are afraid of running out of irrigation water due to the ongoing drought.
Retailers say fruit now costs more because a higher amount is exported, as producers know they can earn more from selling their crops abroad – in fact, exports have risen by 67 percent in the last decade, much of which goes to the UK and Germany.
According to a national association of supermarket chains, the costs of sustainable waste management have gone up and the quality of the fruit in general has improved, which has had an impact on the end consumer price.
Fruit becoming more expensive means residents in Spain are buying less of it to save money – around 12 percent less, in fact, than five years ago, or down from nearly 4,800 tonnes to just 4,200, or from 103 to 92 kilos per person per year. Despite the fall in consumption, the amount spent per capita on fruit remains the same as five years ago at €134 annually.
Figures show that some fruit rises in price by as much as 500 percent between field and supermarket shelf – this is the case with Golden Delicious apples, which sells at €2.22 per kilo in shops compared with 37 cents per kilo at source.
Other types of fruit where the margin between source and consumer is huge include clementines, which retail at €1.53 per kilo but for which farmers are paid 32 cents per kilo, a difference of 378 percent; oranges, which go up by 207 percent, from 63 cents to €1.94 per kilo; pears, from 56 cents to €2.01 per kilo or 258 percent, and bananas, with a difference of 397 percent, increasing from 43 cents to €2.14 per kilo.
The UPA is calling for greater control, saying customers are paying excessively high prices whilst farmers are barely covering their costs, and all those in between along the supply chain are ‘lining their pockets’.
Supermarket association ASEDAS does not agree, saying they consider it ‘perfectly reasonable’ that a third of the value of the fruit should each go to the grower, the retailer, and the company involved in selection, cleaning and transporting, which they say ‘explains the 300 percent increase’.