! Murcia today – archived

Publication date: 08/27/2021

Agriculture minister defends industry’s actions but regional media reports backlash from major buyers affected by international coverage

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Since the first dead fish began washing up on the shores of the Mar Menor almost two weeks ago (conservatives cite a tonnage of around eight tonnes), there has been intense media coverage of the situation, with social media contributing significantly to the sharing of disturbing images of dead and dying fish around the world, and attracting a deluge of negative international media coverage.

The Mar Menor made headlines around the world, with UK-only coverage extending to the BBC and other major European outlets.

Although there is no doubt that the actions of some of the largest agricultural producers in the Campo de Cartagena, who have drilled illegal boreholes to extract water from the Cartagena aquifer, have built illegal desalination plants in which desalinate the extracted water, before discharging the saline solution discharging the waste into the aquifer, then undertaking intensive irrigated agriculture without obtaining the necessary authorizations for years are undoubtedly at the heart of the problems which currently beset the lagoon, the sector is holding to stress that this is only “one piece” of the total problem and is concerned about the defamation of the sector as a result.

Undoubtedly, there are also other hands in the cake, as the CHS turned a blind eye and failed to repress the perpetrators, as did the Regional Government of Murcia. The government knew full well what was happening and did absolutely nothing to stop it, despite continuous warnings from environmentalists that the lagoon was deteriorating and that significant issues needed to be addressed.

Murcia is a major producer of fruit, vegetables and salads, exporting not only to the rest of Spain but also throughout Europe and the sector is powerful and influential. There is no doubt that the majority of producers and people working in the sector comply with environmental legislation and the importance of the sector for the creation of jobs and income in the region is undeniable.

This week, the National Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, defended the work carried out by farmers in the Mar Menor region, expressing his regret that the infractions committed harm the “prestige ” and to the “reputation” of the entire agricultural sector of the Region of Murcia.

He admitted that: “Indeed, there may be farmers who have committed water or phytosanitary infractions, which goes against the prestige and reputation of all farmers in the region” , he said, adding that “what happened in the Mar Menor is an episode that should not be reproduced but which cannot and must not be generalized to our whole sector. “

His department works to develop new strategies for sustainable food production, because “there is no place for unsustainable agrifood production”, but also It must be “from an economic, social, territorial point of view and fight against climate change”. ” and he expressed his concern that the situation in the Mar Menor be rectified and that the legislation be respected.



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However, Spanish-language regional media are already reporting that the negative coverage of the past two weeks is leading to damage to the credibility of Murcia’s products and a negative reaction internationally to the enormous amount of work (and considerable sums spent on advertising campaigns) to build a healthy quality image of Murcian products.

La Opinión reports that agri-food operators and supermarket chains are already beginning to ask companies exporting products grown in the Mar Menor basin not to mention on the label that the fruit or vegetables come from Murcia but rather to give their point of origin as being from Spain.

The newspaper interviewed a number of representatives of the various agencies working in the export sector, who confirmed that they had already been questioned by supermarket chains about the origin of the water used to irrigate their products and the load of nitrate used to produce it. , as was the case following the anoxia incident in 2019 which killed around 300,000 kilos of fish in the Mar Menor.

Fecoam said that so far the impact of adverse coverage has not resulted in the cancellation of any specific orders, but said that if this dynamic “of blaming agriculture as the trigger for the problem” continues, he would not be surprised if that happened, while Fundación Ingenio, interviewed by Cadena Ser, said it had received direct instructions to ensure that products were labeled as being of Spanish and not Murcian origin.

Next week, agricultural and export organizations in the Region, including Proexport, Fecoam and Apoexpa, COAG, ASAJA and UPA, will issue a joint statement defending their position and the good practices employed in most agricultural businesses in the region and the National Ministry of Ecology Transition, Teresa Ribera, who visited the region this week and urged the regional government to punish those found guilty of committing the offenses and to hand over the lands closest to the Mar Menor in their home state, promised that next week she would meet with the agricultural sector to solve the problem of the Mar Menor; she this week expressed her support for proposals to buy farmland near the lagoon and formulate a “green strip” around it, ensuring that agricultural companies are paid for the work they will undertake to facilitate this change.

On Wednesday September 1, the regional minister of agriculture, Antonio Luengo, will address the regional assembly and the regional government is expected to adopt a decree imposing a ban on all nitrates in agriculture near the banks of the river. lagoon.

The issues facing the Mar Menor are very complex. CLICK HERE to find out more (full reference document in English).

Lana T. Arthur