According to SIC Notícias, a campaign is underway in Germany against super intensive farming in the Alentejo and Algarve, especially related to red fruits and avocados.
German activist Friederike Heuer is urging consumers to boycott products originating from these super-intensive cultures, stating that crops consume what little water there is, degrade the soil and exploit the "modern slaves of Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe".
The association of fruit growers from Odemira and Aljezur has lamented the campaign. “I can make a first comment, which is, of course, to regret this type of campaign,” Luís Mesquita Dias, president of the Association of Horticulturists, Fruit Growers and Floriculturists of the Municipalities of Odemira and Aljezur (AHSA), told Lusa.
The official also regretted that, although the campaign is taking place in Germany, it has been "fuelled" by others "relatively identical" in Portugal, by "people who, knowing that the exception is not the rule, give the country, the region and the sector an image that does not effectively correspond to reality”.
Asked by Lusa about whether he fears that the campaign could harm sales of fruits produced in the municipalities of Odemira and Aljezur, namely exports to Germany, Luís Mesquita Dias replied that he would be "lying" if he did not fear "some implications".
The official said that AHSA knows that "most consumers are already very familiar with this type of demonisation campaign for some products and some practices" and, therefore, he admits that the German campaign “may have a momentary impact” on “some consumers”.
From a “reputational point of view”, Luís Mesquita Dias stressed that it was “profoundly disgusting” to the AHSA to see the names of Portugal, the region, the association and its members “mistreated in public”.
But if AHSA, "with the help" of Portugal Fresh - Association for the Promotion of Fruits, Vegetables and Flowers of Portugal and AICEP - Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade of Portugal, "continue to provide information on what is does in the country, people will realise that what is being described does not correspond to reality, at least in general and in most cases”.
Luís Mesquita Dias also argued that the sector and AHSA member companies are “aware and calm regarding good practices, which are of very high quality, in both the environmental and labour sense”.
He added that they are "very committed to helping solve the housing problem" of immigrants working on farms.
It is "a problem that, to a large extent, should be solved by public entities", but which private entities "are taking co-responsibility and trying to help solve", he stressed.
"We have to continue to work as we do, gather as much objective information as possible to counteract with facts what we understand to be slander and hope that consumers have the good sense to continue to buy our quality products”, he concluded.
Meanwhile, the Movimento Juntos Pelo Sudoeste (JPS) has welcomed the campaign and has once again called for an intervention from Brussels.
“This campaign follows on from various efforts” that the JPS movement has made “in recent years” for “other activists in the centre of Europe to raise their voices” and “draw attention” to the problem “of the exploitation of intensive agriculture in Baixo Alentejo”, Fátima Teixeira told Lusa.
Teixeira said that it is important that other international organisations warn of "human exploitation" and "the exhaustion of resources such as water" due to intensive agriculture in these areas.
“We hope that this action, which is taking place in Germany, will bear more fruit and spread throughout Central and Northern Europe”, she added.