By Chris King •
Updated: 20 Oct 2023 • 0:37
Image of a glass of red wine and grapes.
AROUND 500 French winegrowers blocked the Le Perthus border crossing from Spain into France this Thursday, October 19.
The workers from the French departments of Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales were protesting against the import of Spanish products, according to larazon.es.
They reportedly looted the loads of several of the lorries that were transporting tomatoes, wine and cava and subsequently dumped them in the road.
Earlier in the day, Frédéric Rouanet, the president of the Aude winegrowers’ union made an appeal during a winegrowers meeting in the town of Narbonne.
Those present had discussed the current crisis that they find themselves in due to poor harvests and inflation. This has led to an increase in production costs, which are then not recovered by the costs of selling their wines.
According to statements given to the media, their complaints were directed in particular against the bulk wine that arrives from Spain and that in most cases is bottled in France for marketing.
After attending the meeting, the winegrowers moved to the A9 motorway to carry out an action described by the regional press as ‘more spectacular’.
The tollbooth at the Le Perthus border crossing from Galicia was blockaded to prevent the Spanish lorries from entering France. As the French attacked the vehicles, their loads of boxes of tomatoes and bottles of cava were sent flying through the air.
Large streams of wine also flowed onto the road as the taps were opened on the back of tankers transporting the product. Their complaints are directed in particular against the bulk wine that arrives from Spain and that in most cases is bottled in France for marketing, they state in their complaints
Today’s scenes were reminiscent of similar incidents back in the 1980s, when French farmers protesting Spain’s imminent entry into the EU attacked lorries loaded with fruit and vegetables as they tried to cross the border.
In statements to local media, the winegrowers said they were demanding support measures from Emmanuel Macron’s government. This would be in the form of improvements in their social security contributions and state loans.
They warned that the protests against the Spanish lorries would continue. ‘Without a strong announcement, the mobilisation of winegrowers will intensify’, the union added. Their protests began in early October when a bottling and marketing plant in the department of Aude was set on fire.
As a result of the border incident, Spain’s Ministries of Agriculture and the Interior contacted the French authorities to ask them to stop an action that ‘harms’ those affected and also attacks the freedom of movement of goods in the EU.
Officers from the Mossos d’Esquadra also had to be deployed to deal with the subsequent traffic congestion that occurred from early in the morning which did not return to normal until after 2 pm.
Following emergency talks conducted with French government officials by the Spanish embassy in Paris, the border was eventually reopened at around 3 pm with no fresh incidents occurring.
Official sources indicated to the media that: ‘After the contacts that have been made, the Government hopes and wishes that such illegal acts will not occur again’.
In light of what happened on the border, MEPs Dolors Montserrat and Juan Ignacio Zoido asked the European Commission in Brussels to urge EU countries to: ‘guarantee the free circulation of goods with the necessary protection’.
They denounced the fact that although reportedly present at the time of the incident: ‘the forces of law and order, remained at a distance’ and did not ‘intervene at any time’.
The Spanish Confederation of Freight Transport (CETM) asked the Spanish and French authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure that these acts cease and that those responsible ‘stop acting with total impunity’.
They recalled that events such as those of this Thursday were not exceptional. ‘It is not the first time that road freight transport companies and self-employed workers suffered this type of assault in a completely unjustified manner, which endangers the safety of professional drivers, and, in addition, represents important losses for the sector’, they stressed.
The Union of Small Farmers ( UPA ) described the ‘attack on Spanish production by French farmers’ as ‘intolerable and unfair’. It criticised that ‘once again, the authorities have not intervened to prevent this outrage’.
Regarding the reasons that allegedly motivated the actions of French winegrowers, Miguel Padilla, the general secretary of COAG, stated that ‘the profitability crisis that French producers are suffering is also being suffered by Spanish farmers’.
There is a purely commercial strategy behind their action which: ‘seeks to separate Spanish producers from the community market when the real culprits are the large distribution chains, mainly French’, he suggested.
The agricultural organisations Asaja, COAG and UPA all demanded that the authorities take measures against the attack in France on Spanish products.
According to data from the Spanish Observatory of the Wine Market (OEMV), in the twelve months between July 2022 and 2023, France was the main buyer of Spanish bulk wine.
Around 32 per cent of the total volume exported by Spain and 30 per cent of the turnover from these shipments are directed there it showed.
In the first seven months of this year, France bought almost 218 million litres of bulk wine from Spain, worth more than €93.6 million.
Both in volume and billing, the figures accumulated in the first seven months of 2023 are slightly lower than the 219 million litres of bulk wine worth €92.7 million that Spain sold to France in the same period of 2022.
In the global calculation for 2022, France accounted for 32.7 per cent of the total volume of bulk wine exported by Spain and was equal to 29.7 per cent of the turnover.
At a general level, bulk wine exports represented 55 per cent of the total volume of wine that Spain sold abroad in 2022, with shipments of 1,148.4 million litres worth €527.8 million, reported larazon.es.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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