There was a time in Spain when families considered that their student children should also dignify themselves by work. And so, my college friends and I (with farmer parents) lived in fear of the summer. Of course, we returned to class in September with a suntan but not the type you get from lying on the beach.
In my third year (Agriculture) I decided to attack and kill “two birds with one stone”. I had to work (this had been made clear) and earn some money (at least for expenses) and I wanted to see the world. So, I looked for summer work in Europe in the fruit and vegetable warehouses.
It was perfect. I could avoid the hard work in the greenhouse, earn some money, practice a language and hopefully learn something about the business.
My first job was in a Dutch fruit and vegetable import company. One day when I was working (as an operator) on the company’s repackaging line we were given a “very special” job that seemed totally absurd and useless. We had to transfer peppers from one box to another.
The repackaging line was used to clean and re-prepare the products with quality problems coming from different parts of the world; but in this case, the peppers were in perfect condition.
The company had decided to repackage peppers from Israel to pass them off as local Dutch production in order to sell them to the Turkish community without any “political sensitivities”.
The industry agents always find ways of getting round all kinds of political barriers to sell their products.
It’s not the first time that Israeli products end up being packaged at distribution companies in the Netherlands to be sold as Dutch products in the rest of Europe.
And before Spain joined the EEC, Spanish products crossed the French border with no difficulty if you knew the right people among the customs, SOIVRE officials and Plant Health inspectors. As now, the quota products from Morocco end up in Perpignan or Spain in boxes of European origin.
I don’t mean that this is the norm, but it happens and is more common than we think (there are reports and court rulings to confirm it).
And it was all I could do not to laugh the other day when a public representative asked me about the surprising and excessive growth of the sector’s exports to Belarus and Lithuania.
Well yes, the smuggling of fruit and vegetables to Russia exists, and the blocking of imports by the Russian government is not entirely effective.
At the end of the day, it’s just the illegal trafficking of healthy products (that’s how some people see it). In this case, the Spanish proverb “it is very difficult to shut in the field with gates” applies more than ever.
Remember also that in subsequent negotiations on world trade they are trying to remove them all (the gates).