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Consumers empty milk and oil shelves for fear of shortages | Economy

In a market in Malaga, strawberries have disappeared from greengrocers. Mussels are also not to be found, as Antonio Gaitán, a fishmonger vendor, tells us: “They come from Galicia and no one dares to send them and let them fall by the wayside.” Fresh foods, especially fish and milk, are suffering supply problems due to the transport strike called this week to protest the rise in fuel prices and which, according to the sector, has already caused 600 million euros in losses to the primary sector, industry and food distribution. These difficulties are added to those that were already being registered since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, on February 24, and that mainly affect sunflower oil and cereals.

Added to the tensions is the fact that a part of consumers is increasing their purchases of these items due to fear of shortages. “These days some products fly away. The war and the transporters’ strike have been added. As we place them, they are already sold out. For us, it is being like a double pandemic,” notes a supermarket clerk in Madrid.

“The perishable nature and essentiality of the food they produce and market is wreaking havoc in the fresh produce sectors and in geographical areas with great sectoral roots such as Andalusia, Galicia or the north of the country,” they warned on Friday in a joint statement. main business organizations of manufacturers, distributors and cooperatives (ACES, AECOC, ANGED, ASEDAS, Agro-food Cooperatives). The sector calculates that 100,000 jobs are in danger and some companies report that in Almería alone, fruit and vegetable companies are losing around 10 million euros a day. The ports and fish markets are also having serious difficulties, such as in the port of Celeiro (Lugo), where on Friday there were 140 tons of fish about to spoil because they were not released. In some areas, especially in Galicia, milk is not collected on farms, depending on the sector.

Shortage of strawberries and mussels

Andalusia is one of the communities most affected by the strike. In the markets of Malaga, the red color has disappeared from the greengrocers. Huelva strawberries, in full season, do not cross Andalusia. Nor are Cadiz potatoes, although the most affected fruits and vegetables are those that arrive from other countries, such as the golden kiwi that travels from Greece or mangoes from Brazil. “Things are missing, although luckily there are some,” says Encarnación López, from the Encarni Fruit Shop, in the El Palo market. In the same enclosure, half of the fishmongers are closed, because the strike has implied a great increase in the price of some products of the fish market. Among the ice where the genus is displayed, no fishmonger offers mussels.

In the establishments of Covirán, a cooperative of retailers based in Granada that groups 2,876 supermarkets, a spokesman admits “specific problems”. At the beginning of the week, he comments, “the pickets were purely informative” at the door of the large store from which the cooperative members are supplied, but, as the strike has progressed, some have taken “more expeditious measures that have caused some problems.”

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In the Triana neighborhood of Seville, several clients of a well-known Spanish multinational entered the establishment surrounded by members of the Platform for the Defense of the Freight Transport Sector, who were waiting at the door with their information posters. “I understand that everything is very expensive, but in the end we pay for it who least deserve it,” says Encarnación, a retiree who has come to buy.

Olive oil and table olives are in check because there are problems in the reception of containers and, above all, for the exit of the oil, which, if the protests persist, will endanger the supply of the markets, according to pointed out Cristóbal Gallego, from the olive oil sector of Agro-food Cooperatives. Many cooperatives and oil factories had significantly increased the packaging of olive oil to meet the shortage of sunflower oil due to the invasion of Ukraine.

no fresh milk

There are also supply problems in Madrid. In a Carrefour in the Ciudad Lineal district, fresh milk has run out. Long-lasting milk cartons are also not plentiful. “I usually buy it fresh almost every day, but since Tuesday I can’t find it anywhere,” says a customer who looks at the labels of the few bottles left at the point of sale. The replenishers, aware that specific supply problems are being registered, also do not know when the situation will return to normal. “They finished just this morning and, in principle, more boxes will arrive tonight, but I can’t guarantee it,” says one of them. Supply cuts are also noticeable in the flour aisle. The wheat and integral ones are out of stock. Nelly, who prepares desserts for her family every weekend, is forced to buy the strength one (which has higher amounts of gluten).

In the Mercadona in the same Madrid neighborhood, the shortage of milk is also evident. The fresh milk shelves are completely empty. However, those who have it even more difficult are customers used to buying specific products. María García only drinks semi-skimmed milk with calcium and, not finding it, she asks a supermarket clerk when they will replace it again. “We expose everything that arrives, but sometimes it runs out very quickly. Some customers stock up very compulsively due to the fear of shortages”, assures the seller. “I’ll have to come back first thing in the morning,” says Garcia.

The same happens with bottles of olive and sunflower oil and with flour. “On Tuesday we didn’t have any, half a week they brought them to us, but they’ve run out again,” adds the clerk. Dia’s customers have to settle for wholemeal and corn flour, since wheat and strength flour are impossible to find. “People are buying like crazy and in the last week they are replenishing us with a dropper. Yesterday there was no sunflower oil and today there is no flour. Who knows what will play tomorrow”, says a cashier.

Shortage of oil in a supermarket in Madrid this Friday.
Shortage of oil in a supermarket in Madrid this Friday.Alvaro Garcia

Only a dozen bottles of sunflower oil remain in the SaveMas in the Quintana neighborhood. A sign invites buyers not to stockpile: “Only two one-liter bottles or one five-liter carafe can be purchased.” But the great absentee in this point of sale is sodium bicarbonate, of which there is no trace. Paloma needed a package of rice and one of flour, but she had to leave the supermarket with an empty bag. “I don’t understand this shortage. They are all becoming psychopaths, ”says her husband.

“Everything has come together: the strike, the war and the rain”

In the Central Market of Valencia, the fishmongers are the ones who have most noticed the supply problems. But not so much because of the transport strike, as because of the bad weather that has moored the inshore fleet. In the first case, it has been noticed especially in monkfish or hake that “comes from the North and does not arrive as before,” explains Javi, who has been at the stop for 26 years. In the second, for the fresh fish. “Everything has come together. The war, the strike and the rain. A disaster”, comments Rosario, with 55 years as a fishmonger. The greengrocer and president of the market, Merche Puchades, points out that “the strike has only had a slight impact on the strawberries that arrive from Huelva, but in general there have been no shortages, for the time being, although there have been some problems with the fish. We’ll see how everything evolves.”

Some workers at a central Consum supermarket agree with the previous diagnosis and add the shortage of pasta, flour and sunflower oil due to the lack of replacement. Nor would they say that there has been a collection of food. “People buy a little more, but we don’t know if it’s for the holidays [este sábado es festivo en Valencia] or because of everything that is happening”, comments a person in charge.

A similar situation is being experienced in Castellón. “We received sunflower and olive oil until the transportation strike began. This morning we have only been able to replace bottles of extra olives”. That is what a Carrefour replenisher comments in front of the empty shelves of oil bottles. The same does not happen with brand pasta, which has run out in all its forms. “In the morning we put what comes in, but not everything comes in,” says another supermarket employee. However, the private label shelves are full.

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