In a previous article on the value chain in the blog, I wrote: “Farmers and production are facing sustained pressure and need to find economies of scale, lower structural costs or added value.”
Although, in fact, this is already happening to a great extent. The only reasonable prediction is that the pace of this change will accelerate.
The report submitted recently by the Cajamar Foundation (published May 2015) on Spanish horticulture, stated that:
“The acreage of vegetable crops in Spain has decreased over the last decade (13.6%), reaching a minimum in 2012… Despite the decreased acreage, the production of vegetables in Spain has remained steady over the past decade, growing just 0.6%”. (The Spanish horticultural sector in 2013. © 2015 from the edition: Cajamar Caja Rural).
The report is priceless because it tells us in detail the major progress of horticultural production in Spain, and this is much greater than the aforementioned data suggest.
The trends (variation) by farming region/area are spectacular (some lose a lot and others gain a lot); finally giving an overall change of just 0.6% in the final output; also due to the fact that there are increases of over 20% in crop yields, which offset the decline in acreage.
The transformation of the sector is highly significant and is taking place with vigour and diligence, through daily work, which does not make it easy to see the changes until you add the data of a whole decade.
And I would venture to complete the Cajamar report with a trend in the change in ownership structure (with no clear statistical data to prove it due to the complexity of obtaining them). In general, Spanish protected agricultural production (intensive) is undergoing a phenomenon of growth of the productive unit.
That is, the area of the plot or plots controlled by the same farmer (including purchases, leases and borders) is growing, which is a “reference book” response (along with increased productivity) to the pressure that has been exerted on margins (via price and production costs) in the last decade.
“If I can’t make ends meet with what I’ve got, I’ll have to produce more with more land (seeking economies of scale) and also being more efficient (productivity)”
The future of small farmers is bleak. They do not produce enough to live on. They are undergoing a slow and painful death.
Unable to update the means of production, obsolescence leads them to even lower levels of competitiveness.
They also lose interest for marketing companies because the effort to provide services (technical, supplies, etc.) to these farms no longer provides sufficient margin and therefore they end up in more informal marketing circuits of dubious legality and this finally leads them to work on the black market as a last resort.
This article will include a second part to discuss what small, medium-sized and large farmers are in the world of horticulture and what their survival strategies are.