With Sebastián Serena
Sustained and renewed commitment
Photo: Nelson Godoy
Sebastián Serena, Secretary of the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Sector of FITAG-UGT- Spain, told la Rel his own opinion about the 3rd International Conference of the IUF’s Dairy Sector and briefly described the outlook for the activity in that country.
-What is your opinion on the 3rd Conference?
-It was very important, because we could verify that the original idea as to commitment is still there, to continue working at the international level with a sector as essential as this one. The Conference is a greatly influential event for our entities, which I hope will continue in the future.
From no won, we might need to undertake more specific tasks and perhaps focus on fewer objectives that are liable of being realized. The dairy sector is central for rural development in all countries.
Here in Argentina there are vast areas of land but scarce industries and an ever decreasing country population, as you always mention. And I think that in this scenario, the dairy industry could have a significant influence both in generating employment and in allowing possibilities to avoid the migration of people to the impoverished areas that surround urban centers.
To that effect, the Technology Education Center opened recently by Atilra will be a great contribution, because it is a huge commitment with the future and a significant definition as far as strategy and management are concerned.
PIndeed, I would like to strongly congratulate Héctor Ponce and all of the Atilra team on that.
-What can you tell us about the sector’s present situation in Spain?
-In Spain it is an important subsector within the Food industry and represents significant turnover figures in the country’s overall economy, and also implies a manpower volume of approximately 25 thousand workers occupied. The sector is very divided and scattered among numerous small companies.
EThe biggest problem is that 70 per cent of the dairy products sold in Spain are distribution brands (white brands), and this has an effect on research investment because those brands do not need it.
-How has de current economic crisis affected the sector?
-At the moment, similarly as in other production activities in Spain, the sector is affected by the crisis with a decrease in consumption and devaluated salaries.
Even when compared to the millions of unemployed countrywide it does not seem so much, the 1,300 jobs lost in the sector in the past five years in fact make a big difference in this activity.
Small producers still need to be protected
As I listened to our fellow workers from Argentina and New Zealand mention the difficulties that dairy producers encounter as a resulting of the transforming industry, I was thinking that something similar happens in Spain, where dairy farmers are quite disappointed in the fact that, as a result of Spain’s dairy consumption being more than what the nation produces, the country has to end up importing those products.
The surplus milk production in other countries like France, Germany, Holland or Denmark now cover those needs, thus lowering the price of the origin product in Spain even more.
The selling price for a liter of milk at supermarkets is even lower than its production cost. Though legally, this is happening, and that’s why sometimes farmers find it cheaper to discard milk into the sewers than to sell it to transforming companies.
We are in need of a profound consideration of the whole dairy chain in Spain. Otherwise, we will be witness to a negative process that will be devastating for the dairy industry.