Local Daily News 14th September

Inflation leads Alicante families to cut food purchases by 9%

While the Government and distribution companies discuss the most appropriate formula to contain the rise in food prices, families are already making their own decisions to face the situation. And they do it in the only way they can: by tightening their belts. In the same way that many consumers try to reduce electricity consumption or car use to cope with the rise in electricity and fuel, households in the Valencian Community cut the volume of food purchases by more than 9% during the first half of the year, in an attempt to balance their budgets.

This is reflected, at least, by the latest data for the month of June from the Consumption Panel prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which also indicates that, despite this effort, the savings achieved by families in the total expenditure in this section was barely 3%, due to the increase in the cost of most of these products.

A rise that, in addition, has continued during the summer, according to the data that has been known this Tuesday on the CPI. And the fact is that, although the general inflation index has somewhat moderated its rise in the month of August -to stand at 10.5% compared to 10.8% in July-, in the case of food it has skyrocketed to 13.8%, according to the National Statistics Institute.

Although the period does not coincide exactly, the Ministry of Agriculture’s own study already reflects significant increases of more than two digits in the price that families paid in June for most of these products. Increases such as that of oils stand out, with a rise of 55%, which in the case of sunflower oil is more than 100%; that of rice (+28.1%), that of pasta (+26.2%), eggs (+24%), fruit (+23.4%), milk (+22%) or potatoes (+18%). Meat or bread have become more expensive by around 7% -although in the case of chicken, the rise is close to 15%- and fish, 5%.

Logically, all this has forced most households to recompose their shopping basket and, above all, to look closely at the amounts they buy so as not to waste and spend more than necessary. The result is a drop in sales, more pronounced in those products that are generally more expensive, although they are not necessarily the ones that have become more expensive. For example, in the month of June 18.6% fewer kilos of fish were sold in the autonomy, although those of frozen fish remained. Oil purchases fell 14.7%; those of meat, around 13.6%; those of fresh fruit, 13.3%; and vegetables, 12.3%.

On the contrary, sales of treated vegetables and fruits grew by 5%, that is, canned or frozen. More legumes were also sold, which are cheaper to fill the stomach than other types of food (+9.4%) and prepared dishes (+2.9%), which are also usually more affordable than fresh products.

As a whole, during the first half of the year the families of the Community consumed 1,479,048 tons of food compared to 1,628,227 in the same period of 2021, that is, 9.1% less. For its part, total spending was 3,759 million euros, only 3.1% less.

“The data is nothing more than a snapshot of the reality faced by many families, who cannot stop paying the electricity bill or gasoline to go to work, and use what they can to cut back,” says the president of the Valencian Association of Consumers and Users (Avacu), Fernando Móner, one of the participants in the negotiations launched by the Vice President of the Government Yolanda Díaz. Beyond creating an economic basket at a fixed price or limiting certain prices – initiatives that he considers would not be covered by legislation -, Móner advocates monitoring the food chain to detect if there are points where there is an excess of profit and also to lower the VAT on essential products, to contain prices.

An approach, that of reducing the tax burden, which is also claimed by the Association of Supermarkets of the Valencian Community (Asucova), which also claims support measures to contain energy costs, both for food producers, as of distribution chains, as another of the formulas to moderate inflation, according to its general director, Pedro Reig.

The salt mine will produce 550,000 tons of salt thanks to the record heat this summer

The salt company expects a production of 550,000 tons of salt during the extraction campaign that has just begun. The salt workers usually start production work in August and conclude in June of the following year, leaving a month of maintenance work in July. The high temperatures have finally allowed the brine saturation process to speed up, to reach 300 grams per litre of water and for the salt to set until it falls to the bottom of the lagoon. The high evaporation has in turn reduced the volume of water in the wetland, reducing its average depth to one metre and fifteen centimetres, which is usual, compared to the more than one and a half metres that the pink lagoon reached at the end of spring due to the episode of continuous rains, as explained by the engineering director of the facilities, Joseph Pérez.

The temperature records that have broken records in Torrevieja during this summer reflect that 95% of the nights have been tropical and the thermometer has not dropped below 25 degrees -so it goes-. On August 13th, the maximum temperature record of 43 degrees of the entire historical series occurred, which dates back to almost a century -1927-, according to data collected by the station approved by AEMET at the IES Torrevigía.

According to the same sources, at the moment, the extraction machine is working in the lagoon -returner or harvester that removes the salt from the bottom- and four tugboats or boats that drag the trains of boats loaded with salt to the “island”. It is a platform of land at the end of the motte that has divided the lagoon into two halves since the 1990s. The company rules out the extraction of salt in the western area, the one that borders the Hospital, Los Balcones and the agricultural areas of San Miguel and Los Montesinos, which has been working for years as a brine heater and concentrator. The successive episodes of torrential rains since the end of 2016 have ruined most of the campaigns since then. The DANA of December 2016, accompanied by a storm that left snow in Torrevieja in January 2017, left the salt company’s harvest low in that period, although production managed to recover, reaching 600,000 tons in the 2018/2019 financial year. The ideal volume of extraction is 700,000 tons and in some historical campaigns -especially in the 70s- the million was reached. The DANA of September 2019 flooded the facilities again and the stormy Gloria of January 2020 ended up finishing off that harvest. The rainy springs of 2021 and 2022 did not help to recover production and the company resorted -in addition to the freight of salt from other salt mines of the Salins group in Europe and Africa- to the extraction with trucks of the salt layer of the lagoon on the shores -where the extractor does not reach-. This wet cycle has made it possible, in return, for the contribution of fresh water to consolidate one of the largest nesting populations of flamingos in Spain. The flamingos nested for the first time in the pink lagoon in 2020, and they have repeated in 2021 and 2022.

Now Salins Spain, the subsidiary of the French multinational Salins, crosses its fingers so that a new episode of torrential rains does not disrupt these forecasts. Despite these difficulties, the company has always maintained a stock of 200,000 tons of salt -and will continue to do so- to face any change in forecasts and meet all its customers. Pérez adds that the arrival of boats from other salt flats to disembark in Torrevieja is not contemplated during the current campaign. Most of the salt is used in bulk for de-icing roads in Europe and Spain, but there are also items of food salt, including fleur de sel, and its use for chemical industries, among others.

The history of salt exploitation, whose industrial activity dates back to the mid-eighteenth century, is full of episodes in which the rains make “the puddle’s harvest lose.” And of technological adaptations to avoid it, such as the ditches around the lagoon, the mechanisation of the 1950s or the construction in the early 1970s of the brine pipeline from Pinoso that provides flows of water already saturated with salt extracted from the salt dome located in this population. The innovation allowed Torrevieja to be one of the few salt farms in the world that can extract salt throughout the year. The salt mines, which gave work to thousands of day labourers in the 19th century – now the workforce is about 80 workers – are at the origin of the same population of Torrevieja.

The EU cut in fishing days reduces catches by 1,800 tons

Until now, the discomfort and indignation that the cuts in fishing days by the European Union (EU) had caused in the sector were known, but the real scope of this measure remained to be seen. And the figures that have just been released are truly devastating, since catches in the province of Alicante fell by 1,826 tonnes last year, which is 16% less than in the previous year. Turnover, for its part, has remained at similar levels, although, yes, without even remotely compensating for the increase in fuel prices. The fleet, suffocated by the lack of profitability, demands more European aid.

The policy of cutting fishing days in Mediterranean waters for the trawler fleet is having catastrophic consequences in the sector. The EU began to make cuts two years ago, to the point that, in 2021, the vessels could only go out to fish for 180 days compared to the 240 that they previously enjoyed. It has been now when the Valencian Institute of Statistics (IVE) has published the captures of the province corresponding to this last exercise, highlighting the impact that these reductions have had. And it is that of the 11,373 tons of fish marketed in 2020, it has gone down to only 9,547 a year later. The thing, in addition, is going to get worse, since in 2022 there has been a new cut of between ten and twelve days.

The secretary of the Federation of Fishermen of the Province of Alicante, Juan Mulet, points out that, in this reduction, the lower activity of the purse seiners that have established their bases in foreign ports such as Murcia, Almería or Castellón, may also have influenced. but he is clear that the EU cuts are causing serious damage to the sector, as well as fuel prices, which continue to skyrocket. This week, without going any further, fishing diesel, discounting the 20-cent bonus from the Government, moves around 80 cents, which, Mulet emphasises, means that the accounts do not come out. “Anything over 70 cents is ruin,” he laments.

A fact that draws attention in this regard is the volume of turnover, which with 53.2 million euros has been at levels very similar to those of the previous year despite the decrease in catches. The representative of the sector justifies this paradox in matters such as the lower volume of fishing in other areas such as the Bay of Biscay or the size of the specimens. “In any case -he qualifies-, this figure is totally misleading, since we have had to face the enormous increase in fuel prices”.

The pressure exerted by the sector itself and the Ministry of Agriculture led to a change in the EU compensation system, so that what had previously been aid for biological shutdowns declined, giving way to compensation for the reduction of fishing effort. That, in practice, represents a 15% increase in funds from Europe.

The fleet, however, continues to consider it insufficient. This is stated by Rafael Torres, representative of the fishermen of Alicante, who points out that “the aid has not been noticed practically at all, because there are many days without fishing and everything is more expensive, from diesel to the dry dock.”

In any case, not the entire sector is equally affected. The purse-seine boats, the majority in Torrevieja, do not have cuts and consume less than the trawlers. “The issue is complicated, although for now we can weather the storm,” says the patron saint of the brotherhood, Pedro Carmona.

The man accused of killing a baby in Elche would have mistreated other children

The statement given by several witnesses in the trial held in Elche for the beating to death of a little boy named Daniel, seven months old, has placed the accused of killing his partner’s baby in a complicated situation by being singled out as an alleged abuser of children who had previously assaulted more minors and two former partners.

According to the testimony given by two young men, children of an ex-partner with whom the accused had a relationship for eleven years, the attacks were daily since they were little and that they lived in a panic. This young man has reported in the oral hearing that Ginés S.A. even attacked him with an iron stick and kept him locked up in a room for six months, from which he only left to go to the bathroom. This witness assures that the defendant beat him and his sister from a young age, whom he put in a shower with boiling water. All these beatings reported by this witness occurred when his mother was not at home.

A former partner of Ginés who has also testified in the trial has acknowledged that she sees him capable of killing a baby. This witness explained that she regularly saw her children with bruises but he told her that they had fallen.

This woman also points out that small children especially bothered her when they cried and that it was not only her children who were the victims of ill-treatment, since she “knocked down” her four children with slaps. On the other hand, she highlighted in her statement that one of her daughters currently has neurological problems due to the punches that the defendant gave her in the head since she was little.

The ex-partner assures that she was also the victim of ill-treatment and aggression by Ginés. On one of the occasions, she says that she left her locked up in a house in Elche and had to be rescued by the Police and Firefighters, so she had to be taken out of a balcony.

A daughter of Ginés has also recounted the aggressions suffered at the hands of her father, although clarifying that they were not habitual and that she did it because he was “rebellious”. However, she says that her sister was not beaten. “She corrected me with her hands” and on two occasions “with a strap,” says the witness, who indicated that on one occasion she punched him in the face and grabbed him by the hair. According to this daughter, this happened when she was 14 or 15 years old and she ran away from home for a weekend. When she returned, she points out that she hit him in the head and that she became unconscious.

Despite these attacks, her daughter does not consider her father capable of killing a baby. “I have never seen my violent father with a baby,” says the daughter, who denies that her father had a macho attitude but admits that she beat him up when she separated from him.

This daughter was the one who was in charge of little Daniel three days before her death and she noticed that she had five finger marks on her body and three bruises on her face. Ginés told him that she had fallen from the sofa and Daniel’s mother stated that the marks on her body were scratches.

This witness has offered new information not provided to the Police or in the court that instructed the case, where she said that her mother was good with the baby. Thus, he assures that the night before Daniel’s death, the baby did not stop crying and the mother, also accused in the trial of the same acts as her ex-partner, began to shout, insulting the little one and saying that “you have me until the end of the day.”  The father, according to the witness, then asked her not to yell at the baby because she was going to get more upset and she managed to make the child shut up.

The sister of the previous witness has recounted in her trial that her father was never aggressive with her, although she indicated that he once threatened to cut off her head and run her over with a car. 

Another ex-partner of Ginés has explained that the defendant tried to attack her with a baseball bat and that she also hit her daughters, although in the oral hearing she has softened the accusations made previously against her ex-partner in police and judicial headquarters.

Close friends of her mother, including Daniel’s biological father, have denied in court that she had problems with alcohol and drugs. Everyone agrees that Conchi is a good mother. “She treated her children like angels,” said Daniel’s father, who did not recognize his son but now exercises the private accusation against the stepfather as the sole perpetrator of the child’s murder.

In contrast, the father of a daughter of Daniel’s mother has declared that he beat the girl and has assured that he has been threatened and warned by relatives so that he would be careful with what he declared in the trial.

The third session of the trial scheduled for this Wednesday includes the statement of the coroners and other experts. Her testimony will also be key to shedding light on the injuries that the baby had when she died last year in Elche.

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