From March 14 until the self-imposed pause "due to responsibility" last Saturday, Spanish hauliers, grouped under the National Road Transport Committee (CNTC), carried out a general strike in several regions of the country in protest against the increase in the cost of gasoline as a result of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia (one of the main producers of natural gas in the world) following its invasion of Ukraine.
The transporters' strike had immediate consequences in many sectors of the economy, but especially in those that depend entirely on the efficiency of the distribution chain to function: the food sector. Especially the agricultural and livestock sectors, which, unlike the factories where ultra-processed food and beverages are produced and packaged, do not have it so easy when it comes to stopping production.
As a spokesman for the agro-livestock sector told Canal 24 in an interview, they cannot stop production like the factories: the animals need to keep eating, the cows keep being milked. With the supply chain disrupted, highly perishable produce has nowhere to go and, in many cases, farmers have been forced to discard their products.
The farmers' strike
Only 6 days after the beginning of the transporters' strike, on March 20, the whole of Madrid was flooded by a tide of farmers and ranchers who mobilized to complain about the unstoppable increase in their production costs, which went from representing 45% of the production value at the end of 2021, to 60% in March 2022.
The main affected, as always, are the small and medium-sized producers, who claim, in turn, that the Food Chain Law, according to which farmers must always receive a price for their products that covers - at least - the cost of production, is not being complied with. Of course, this situation affects them more than the agro-livestock mega-productions, which have productive and distributive structures capable of maintaining their profitability thanks, mainly, to their large scale.
This situation, in addition to affecting tens of thousands of workers, has caused both shortages in the cities and higher prices of the products that reach the shelves; but, at the same time, it has revived an old debate: that of the local economy.
In case of crisis: local economy
Most of us are used to buying our food (and most of our products) without stopping to think too much about who produced it or where it comes from, despite the fact that both factors are fundamental in determining the climate cost, i.e. the carbon footprint, associated with what we are buying and consuming.
Does it make sense to eat a tomato, for example, that has traveled thousands of kilometers to reach the gondola of your favorite supermarket, when there are surely dozens of local producers offering practically the same, at a similar price, in the greengrocers and markets of your neighborhood? From a purely economic point of view, it is possible that yes, but from an environmental point of view, definitely not.
This is the fundamental principle of the economy of proximity, according to which it is always preferable to consume products produced close to the point of consumption (generally, of course, the home), in order to reduce transport and distribution distances - the carbon footprint - on the one hand, and to reduce the waste associated with agro-industrial mega-production on the other.
In addition, the proximity economy aims to strengthen the local economy: by supporting small producers in each of our regions, we are directly influencing their ability to continue working and strengthening their livelihoods.
Thus we come to the current context: despite the fact that the hauliers have put their claim on hold and that the Spanish government has imposed a 20-cent reduction in the cost of gasoline, the supply crisis is far from over, since, according to the farmers who demonstrated in Madrid, other costs associated with production, such as insecticides, for example, have also risen considerably (in many cases, without apparent justification).
Even if the war in Ukraine ends tomorrow, the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by many countries and Western multinational blocs will remain in force, and the cost of gasoline will continue to rise, affecting the entire food production, distribution and supply chain.
For this reason, buying local products will not only be the best thing consumers can do for the subsistence of our planet, but also to safeguard their own local economies. The local economy, little by little, will go from being a personal decision to a community necessity.
Join the fight!