Cucumber Mountain

MOT Cucum 07Anybody that strolled onto the beach at Carchuna would probably have done a double back flip, as we did, when they came across the incredible amount of discarded cucumbers on the beach… but we’re not talking about the odd slice left over from a cucumber sandwich, nor the peelings from a salad, but the 25 million kilos of surplus cucumbers that were dumped in protest.

There were two causes to this problem: the overproduction of this kind of vegetable, and the eternal problem of mark up prices on the way to the shop shelves. The farmers, for instance, were offered just eight cents a kilo by the big warehouses, whereas it was costing them 48 cents a kilo to grow. It escaped nobody’s attention that by the time the same cucumbers were gracing the supermarket shelves, the price tag was 150% over what the warehouses had paid for them, even though the distance between the greenhouses and some supermarkets was less than 20 kilometres away – in some cases, in the same town.

Spanish greenhouses basically stock the whole of Europe with cucumbers of this variety, and to be more precise, Granada produces 60% (2,100 hectares) and Almería produces the remaining 40%. So how much is the Costa Granadina (between Charcuna and La Rabita) producing? A staggering 100,000 kilos a day! One farmer, whom we interviewed, claimed that the figure was closer to one million, but farmers are like anglers…

On a positive note, this shared calamity has brought the coast’s farmers into a tighter union. Their one-week-long boycott, during which no pepinos were delivered to the wholesalers, brought the selling price up to 30 cents, but still below their growing costs.

Yet the farmers are not budging because they cannot accept a selling price that remains under the production costs… so the daily dumping of 100% of the crop output continued into the following week. If they couldn’t earn from their labour, they are darned sure nobody else was going to!

Another factor that contributed to this disaster was the unusually high temperatures, that had the cucumber plants spouting their fruit in a frenzy, normally during mid November, there would be snow on the Sierra de Lújar and things would have settled down.

Finally, by the very end of November, the selling price had reached 35 cents/kilo and colder weather had set in, causing production to slow down, so the dumping was halted and trading resumed. Europe was running out of cucumbers and prices were rising.

On the 1st of December the Town Hall started cleaning up the mess, removing 350 tonnes on the first day. Unfortunately the surge of rotting cucumbers overwhelmed the rubbish-treatment plant in Montecastillo and the rest had to be taken to Alhendín.
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