- Why we must not buy Spanish strawberries !

I had to write, now, straight away, about a topic very important to my heart : the strawberry.

I will try to explain ‘Marlène’s way’, same way I explained to one of my colleague while she was eating melon in December !

God created seasons, we have to respect that.

December is definitely not the melon’s season, strawberry either by the way. I should have said the same thing to that young woman next to me on the market buying melon two days ago (frankly there are too many species like that!). It was nearly itchy not to tell her,  even if I was taking the risk to have the same answer as from my colleague : ‘I don’t care about seasons, I am enjoying my melon’…

Oh well, at least I tried and want to convince myself that no, not everybody doesn’t care about seasons. We can prepare great desserts and fruits salads with winter fruits even though it is less exciting for some. The advantage is that they will be more excited (like me) when Spring will come because they would have waited for those strawberries, cherries and other summer delights for one year.

I try to prepare my little trip to Sevilla and of course I wander a lot at the ‘food department’. Again I came across an article about the Spanish strawberries which irritated, but really irritated me, to the point that I needed to talk about it right now, to remind and remind me in what world we live.

Since our consumer society took the habit to offer any fresh fruits and vegetables in its supermarket, Andalusia specialized in intensive gardening in greenhouse, especially in Almeria and Huelva regions. Since 1980, they are  devoted to intensive strawberry cultivation. In 2011 in those 2 regions, 6000 hectares had been reserved for the fruit cultivation for a production of 240 000 and 270 000 tons, 85% being intended for export. What make Spain the first exporting country of strawberries in the world.

This extensive use creates problems of course, environmental as well as on public health and social.

That kind of production needs the massive uses of fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides (not ot mention the water needs), it is not surprising that several analyses revealed the presence of those unhealthy substances in strawberries trays imported from the Huelva region.

Then, the plastic tunnels which allow strawberries to grow have to be replaced regularly. Those plastics impregnated with pesticides are then stored in open air rubbish tip and then burnt, like by accident… Combustion smokes generate contamination by dioxin and heavy metals.

More, in that region, plastics fires are not the only cause of pollution. In the Huelva zone, fields stop at the factories door. Out of the strawberry, the other economical activity of the region is concentrated in one of the densest industrial area in Europe. A few kilometers further to the factories, are situated a refinery, a thermal power station, cellulose and fertilizer factories. That make more understandable that none of the producers have even attempted to get the organic label.

This production also needs a huge seasonal labor, the majority being migrant workers, women essentially (in 2009, 80% of the production of around sixty Andalusian companies were from Morocco), a labor fragile and little aware of its right, which some employers take advantage of.

Regarding the environmental, this region gets one of the biggest pine forest of the European Atlantic coast. A part of this forest is protected (the Donana park). Those entrepreneurs unprincipled the forest into agricultural land and, after 3 years, according to the policy of ‘fait accompli’, obtain the operating license. The responsables have rarely been condemned and in the strawberry business, fines are part of the investment cost. Not to mention the wealth which allow to effectively influence the economic and political power.

All that is only corruption, profit… to the detriment of our richness, moral and seasons.

So I would say that instead of telling ourselves that there is no point to buy our food according to the season as nobody cares and it won’t change anything, we should be more responsible and honest with ourselves, if there are so many unseasonal products on our market it’s because we buy them.

I am not talking about mangos or bananas which need a tropical climate to grow but about that little fruit so beautiful and fragile the strawberry is which grows beautifully in UK’s dull climate. Japan, United- States, France and of course UK produce wonderful ones. No need to go very far.

Just be patient and wait for the right season. And yes it is only a little drop but this drop will make a pond then a lake and an ocean.

What’s the point to carry on if we don’t believe in anything…


Picture taken last spring, no need to specify ! x

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