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Spanish farmer protest by giving away veggies, fruit

Published on 08/06/2011

Spanish farmers gave away 40 tonnes of fruit and vegetables in central Madrid on Wednesday to alert people to huge losses sustained in a killer bacteria slur.

Spain is demanding full compensation after the German authorities falsely blamed Spanish cucumbers for a virulent E. coli outbreak, which has killed 25 people.

At the give-away, queues for free fruit and vegetables stretched for hundreds of metres (yards) in front of stands piled with cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, nectarines and lettuce.

“I have taken a bit of everything, cucumbers, tomatoes, fruit,” said Camila Alonso, arms full of three bags of fruit and vegetables.

“I am going to share them with my colleagues.”

Dotted around the stands, banners in Spanish, English and German read: “Healthy, Safe and Delicious.”

“I have eaten Spanish produce and nothing has happened to me or my family,” said Mario Agurto of Ecuador as he took advantage of the free food. “This is good for us because I am unemployed.”

Spain’s fruit and vegetable exporters association, FEPEX, has estimated the losses to the industry at 225 million euros ($328 million) per week since the crisis began.

The fruit and vegetable give-away was a call to Spanish consumers and the international community, said Miguel Lopez, secretary general of the Livestock and Farmers Cooperative (COAG).

“We want to support our industry with this action,” he told AFP.

Lopez said he estimated losses to Spain now amounted to 350 million euros and those to Europe about one billion euros.