War already causes livestock farms in Catalonia to close

About thirty companies have had to close in the three months following the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Pol Casaponsa Sarabia
2 min
Cows grazing in the Assa valley, in Asiago, province of Vicenza, in an archive image.

BarcelonaIt has been over three months since the war between Russia and Ukraine began. At the time of the outbreak of the conflict, it was already being said that, at home, the big losers would be livestock farmers. The dependence on cereals from the so-called "breadbasket of Europe" and the high energy consumption required by farms indicated that the sector would suffer. And indeed they have.

The first consequences of this situation are already making themselves felt. "Some thirty cow farms in Catalonia have already had to close and others have had to reduce their herd, for example, from 600 cows to 150, since it no longer pays to produce milk and selling the meat is the most effective in the short term," explains the president of the Agricultural Association of Young Farmers (ASAJA), Rosa Pruna. In addition, she points out that dairy farmers were the first to feel the bite, but meat producers will be up next. "Big companies will keep all the production, as has already happened with pork, since small producers are unsustainable with these costs".

"The price of keeping animals has skyrocketed, but we cannot raise the price of meat, since no one would buy it from us," Pruna explains. She is also concerned because the goods and products that have been most affected by inflation are absolutely necessary for the sector. She explains that products such as wheat have gone from costing €220 per ton last year to €380 today. The president of ASAJA believes that this price increase has not been caused only by the conflict and indicates that "here is someone who is making a killing". It is for this reason she considers that "as has been done with other products, the price of cereals should be intervened".

Feed is running out

On the other hand, the president of the Associació Catalana de Fabricants d'Aliments Compostos (ASFAC), Pere Borrell, explains that the situation with suppliers is totally "uncertain". Feed manufacturers have run out of cereals, seeing how ports such as Tarragona have gone from having supplies for two months to being left with an almost empty warehouse, with stocks for only two weeks. Spain is the largest producer of feed in the EU and last year it marketed 30 million tons to supply domestic needs and those of many other EU countries.

Besides, Borrell also warns that, although cereals imports are guaranteed until October, then the Ukrainian season will come again and they will find themselves "with nothing". In fact, the European Union, in response to the Ukrainian conflict, lifted restrictions on cereal trade with Argentina and the United States with a six-month extendable permit, which Borrell says should "undoubtedly be put in place".

The sector complains that European aid "has not yet arrived". Farmers consider that aid does not cover the damage they have suffered, although Pruna stresses that whenever aid arrives it will be "welcome". In addition, Borrell explains that, to access current aid packages, they have to argue that they are carrying out research and development projects, and, although there is speculation that specific aid for the compound food sector will be offered, "these will be much smaller and, therefore, insufficient". She also complains that "sectors with the strongest lobbies have been the big beneficiaries"

But yet another concern shared by the entire grain sector has arisen. Spain's harvest, which was expected to be very good and gave hope to many, is no onger expected to be as good. Even so, they are waiting to see what will happen in the coming weeks, when crops start to grain.