the sector is also in crisis in India, Spain and Morocco

Two days before the opening of the Agricultural Show, the sector is going through a global crisis on all continents, from India to Spain via Morocco. Explanations from our correspondents on site.



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A farmers' protest in Madrid, Spain, on February 21.  (JUAN CARLOS ROJAS / JUAN CARLOS ROJAS)

While the Agricultural Show opens its doors to the public on Saturday February 24, Porte de Versailles, in Paris, the anger of farmers does not weaken in France. In India, the latter are blocking part of the access to New Delhi and a general agricultural strike was launched on February 22. In Spain, the anger of farmers and breeders resulted in a wave of protests which began on February 12, 2023. Finally, in Morocco, the lack of rain and extreme heat raise fears of poor harvests.

In India, anger reaches the capital

Farmers from the north of the country have launched a march towards New Delhi since February 20 and are clashing with the police who are holding them outside the capital. This movement is reminiscent of the historic one of 2020, where Indian farmers camped for a year at the gates of New Delhi to oppose agricultural reform.

The government had given in, and to lift the siege, it had also promised to study the possibility of ensuring a guaranteed minimum price for the country’s main crops, such as wheat. However, for 3 years, there has been no follow-up to this promise, and as the legislative elections take place in April 2024, farmers are demanding the application of this measure. The latter exists in some states, but not at the national level and this extension is particularly in demand by farmers in fertile northern regions, such as Punjab, where harvests are abundant and the price is guaranteed. But the farmers of this region find themselves in competition with other poorer states without minimum prices, who come to sell their products there and slash prices.

The government responds that it is impossible to deploy such a national system quickly, as it would have a huge impact on food prices, and would also be difficult to apply in very different regions. Negotiations have therefore been underway for a week, but do not seem to be coming to fruition. However, the movement can harden, as illustrated by these clashes with the police 200 km from Delhi, and gain momentum, with these other agricultural unions which have joined the demonstrations throughout the country.

In Spain, the mobilization does not weaken

Farmers have been mobilized since February 12 and this has resulted in the blocking of numerous roads, highways and infrastructure, snail operations and demonstrations throughout the territory. They are protesting in particular against unfair competition from third countries, excessive bureaucracy and the complexity of the standards imposed by Brussels or, even, the too low prices at which they must sell their production.

The 3 main Spanish agricultural unions demand urgent and coordinated action from the administrations, as they made known on February 21 to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, during a meeting that he found positive. “We are working hard to respond to this problem. The Spanish government has today put on the table a very comprehensive package, as always, open to dialogue and compromise, but it is a very solid package of measures, explains Luis Planas. I would like to mention in particular the creation of the National Food Information and Control Agency. On the government side, we will continue to work to address these concerns.”

In total, there are 18 measures linked to food chain law, the simplification of CAP regulations and exports from third countries, which will have to be addressed in Brussels. As for this new National Agency for Food Control and Inspection, it should make it possible to improve price control.

However, Spanish unions said it was still too early to describe the meeting as positive. They are waiting for the measures to begin to materialize and it is for this reason that they will maintain the calendar of mobilizations.

In Morocco, the lack of rain is more and more severe every year

Morocco experienced a heat episode in February with temperatures reaching 36 degrees in Agadir and Essaouira. But according to the formula of Théodore Steeg, in Morocco, “to govern is to rain”, since rainfall has a direct impact on the country’s GDP. A year without rain, part of the growth evaporates.

Agriculture employs a third of the population and represents 14% of the country’s exports. Suffice to say that the drought has catastrophic effects for farmers and in particular cereal growers. However, they had anticipated the water shortage by halving the sown areas, going from 5 million hectares usually sown to 2.3 million hectares.

In addition to this reduction in cultivated land, farmers are rationed water to 5,000 tonnes per hectare. They are also thinking of stopping producing cereals to concentrate on market gardening or fruit crops, which have, for the cost, made their revolution. With a lot of subsidies, fruit and vegetable growers switched to drip irrigation and replaced gas with solar power to run their irrigation pumps. Agriculture consumes 87% of water resources, but all Moroccans are called upon to make efforts, since restrictions have been decreed, such as the closure of hammams three days a week.

Solve the water shortage equation

The country is dotted with dams, but today they are almost empty. However, the country has been at the forefront of cloud seeding technology since the 1980s, but that does not prevent drought.

The kingdom has therefore embarked on a policy of major works, since all along the coast, seawater desalination plants are under construction. The government has also launched the construction of water highways to connect the regions together. The first section between Oued Sebou and Rabat-Casablanca has just been inaugurated after only nine months of work.

source site-29