Small farmers appeal for government support

Associations representing small farmers in the Algarve have sent an open letter to the ministry of agriculture, calling for more government support in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

They accuse the government of “making the same mistakes” by implementing policies that favour large-scale agribusiness that focuses on exports instead of supporting small, local farmers who provide communities with fresh, locally-grown produce.

The letter – signed by Almargem, Associação das Terras e das Gentes da Dieta Mediterrânica, Movimento ‘Slow Food’ do Algarve, Movimento Glocal Faro and 12 small farmers – comes at a time when the agriculture sector is being “strongly affected by the pandemic”.

“There are many farmers who are not able to sell their products,” says the group.

While some have seen distribution channels stopped due to the closure of hotels and a slowdown in exports, small producers have been unable to sell at local street markets and to restaurants and other businesses.

Thus, the group is calling for more support for small farms instead of focusing only on large farming companies, which “resort to temporary migrant work schemes” and “exploit natural resources” through unsustainable irrigation, to export products “without generating wealth within the country”.

According to the group, small farmers create job opportunities at a local level and sell their products to local businesses.

The group draws a distinction between the two different types of farming – one “uses more resources and is focused almost exclusively on exports” and the other “adapts to the food needs of the community, adopting a more sustainable use of resources”.

“We need correct and fair measures in order to safeguard and improve autonomy, diversity, freshness and food quality,” the group says.

The associations and farmers also urge the ministry to allow street markets to reopen, with “adequate preventive measures”, so they can sell their products and “supply the local population with fresh, quality produce”.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com