Agriculture of Almeria criticized on the BBC Two

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“Mediterranean with Simon Reeve” website

Barely 15 days have passed since we started this blog with the purpose of responding to misinformation about agriculture in Almeria, and we already have the first case–from the BBC Two, nonetheless.

It comes from a television series, Mediterranean with Simon Reeve. In the fourth episode, from minute 24:54 to 40:40, he conducts two interviews in Almería that do not reflect the reality of the Almería countryside.

In the first place, he begins by saying that Almeria’s greenhouses took off thanks to how “the cheap plastic sheets” allowed that suddenly anyone could have a greenhouse. Starting off with this made up tale is an omen of what will come next. In reality, the structures of the greenhouses and their plastics are not cheap at all. Without taking into account the value of the land, one hectare of greenhouse (an area with which a family could live), costs around 100,000€, which is more than the value of many houses here. The greenhouses arrived in Almeria thanks to the help of the Institute of Colonization and the role of the savings banks, as the friends at Cajamar told so well in the documentary “50 years of greenhouses“. He also says that it was thanks to “lax regulation”. It is difficult to imagine what historical study of the Spanish laws this gentleman has done to consider that in 1950 the Spanish regulation was not hard enough. Yes, we can say that nowadays we fulfill all the demands of the EU, which are not few.

Viewing the greenhouse chosen for the first interview assumes the intention of giving a sense of decadence. They talk about the high temperature at that moment inside the greenhouse (in which no one is working)–no less than 90 degrees. We assume that it refers to degrees Fahrenheit, that is, 32ºC. Then the worker starts talking about being treated like a machine and Simon asks: have you ever seen a situation where someone working here has died? The answer given is yes.

There has been misinformation about the conditions in the Almeria greenhouse, but never an accusation as serious as this, that in our greenhouses people are worked like machines to death because the farmer does not care. Almería is a European city that complies with the relevant legislation on the prevention of occupational hazards. Despite this, unfortunately, accidents sometimes happen, and when this occurs they are duly investigated. If there is found to be responsibility on the part of the farmer or of another party, they are duly judged and condemned. It is unimaginable that we would have to clarify something like that. The BBC Two should not give credibility to such a serious testimony without conducting any kind of investigation.

They then continue on to a house which Simon says that Solomon “has to share with 15 other people” because it is all that they can afford, and that they pay 380€ together each month. You just have to do a quick google search to see the flats that someone can rent for that money in western Almeria.

Almería is a city located on the most unequal border in the world, whose economy depends mainly on an industry that requires an abundance of unskilled labor (in addition to technicians, engineers and other specialists). After 50 years of greenhouses, we have managed to have people of more than 110 different nationalities living in peace in our province. If Simon had gone around any hospital, school or shopping center in the area, he would have seen the melting pot of cultures in which Almería has become thanks to agriculture.

Despite this, unfortunately, it is possible to find people living in undesirable situations in our province. These are cases that must be addressed urgently by the different administrations, starting with the EU. Trying to blame farmers for the social inequalities that exist in a European province located a few kilometers from the coasts of Africa is tremendously unfair.

When Simon leaves the farmhouse he is clearly angry and says that if the English supermarkets went there to check the living conditions of the workers of Almeria, they would not buy our products. Maybe he does not know that retail distribution requires high quality standards that are certified periodically in our greenhouses and warehouses.

Finally, Simon finds a corner of a dry ravine where he finds some plastic and says that we are dumping it into the sea. He talks to another person and asks: are you telling me that you do not have to recycle greenhouse plastics by law? A question that remains unanswered. Well, the answer is yes. They have to be recycled by law since 1998, and the government also cleans up abandoned plastics. The Junta de Andalucía began to collect and recycle agricultural plastics in 1991, marking Andalusia one of the first regions of the country to do so. That is why the waters of our beaches are so transparent–as you can clearly see at the end of this story as the camera pans over our province.

This blog does not intend to defend business owners who do not comply with the law. In agriculture, (as in many other sectors) there are people who hire people illegally, and it is the responsibility of the government that these illegal practices are detected and sanctioned so that they are not profitable in any way. In the fields of Almeria the controls are rigorous and these practices are much more uncommon than some media try to make us believe.

We can’t forget that in 2013 the BBC spoke about our agriculture, this time well, and it was beautiful.

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