The Internet has been hailed as a solution to the ailing citrus fruit trade in the province of Valencia, Spain. The Valencian citrus fruit trade is said to be on the verge of collapse. Ever-increasing costs and dwindling profits are resulting in more plots being abandoned and long-standing family traditions being lost.
However, there is a glimmer of hope amidst the chaos, namely the internet. Websites dedicated to the sale of fruit – oranges and lemons – are thriving throughout the region shifting millions of kilos of produce.
Hundreds of farmers and related tradesmen are managing to scrape a living thanks to the new technologies and via various self-employment systems. For a start, the direct sale of fruit to consumers eliminates the middleman and thus increases the slice of the profit pie for the producer, who obtains a higher price than selling though supermarket chains and cooperatives.
Meanwhile, buyers are offered the chance to have a box of fruit on their table in just 24 hours at an average cost of two euros a kilo. The main problem seems to be lack of organisation and the fact that the offer is very disperse, as business falls to individual farmers and there is no central regulating body.
It also makes it very difficult to ascertain the exact level of trade and profit statistics. The online sale of citrus fruit was reportedly pioneered by a landowner named Federico Aparici in 1998, who tired of selling his produce for next to nothing set up the website naranjasola.com
He now sells his entire crop of 200,000 kilos collected from his plot in Cullera (Valencia) over the site. His customers are said to include star chefs such as Catalan ace Ferran Adria and Martin Berasategui plus some of the top hotels in Spain.
He employs six members of his family and occasionally takes on extra staff to cope with orders from France, Germany and the UK. By selling directly online, customers pay the proper price that the product is worth, according to Sr Aparici.
Other farmers now using the internet as the backbone of their business back up this claim by revealing that the fruit they sold via regular stores was paid to them at between four and 21 cents per kilo when it costs 20 cents to produce.
Farming trades union AVA-Asaja has called a ‘progressive’ protest march against the ‘unsustainable situation’ of the Valencian agricultural trade. The demo will take place over April and May through various districts of the region culminating in two massive protests in Madrid and Valencia.
“Valencian farmers are at the very limit of our possibilities of subsistence,” declared AVA president Cristobal Aguado, adding that falling fruit prices and profitability will lead to losses of 112 million euros this year.
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