Artisanal production in times of crisis

La Llueza is a duck farm located in Espinosa de los Monteros, just north of Burgos. They make foie-gras in the traditional way, with everything produced totally on their own farm. The ducks, brought from France when they are one day old, live in the open air, roaming freely in the local fields in a farm which blends totally into the natural environment.

The owners of this farm, a young couple from Bilbao, decided one day, to change their way of life and move to the countryside to become small artisanal producers. They wanted to give priority to the quality of the product and decided to control the elaboration and production of this product from start to finish. They also wanted to sell it directly to restaurants and shops, without any intermediaries. They do it this way because they cannot and will not compete in price with the big distribution chains. They have their own slaughterhouse and they comply with the legislation for the slaughtering of poultry and the elaboration of the product. Their goal is to comply fully with the legislation. They went to France to learn the trade and they met people willing to show them their farms and workshops… and their “savoire faire”. This added value makes a difference.

However they have found obstacles, daily. They receive unfair competition from competitors who don’t comply fully with current legislation. This is a real disadvantage. For example the European standards concerning animal welfare, forbid the opening of new duck foie gras farms in that use small individual cages for the ducks from 2006 onwards. It also says that they should disappear completely by 2010. However the unfairly competing producers think there is a “hidden” moratorium on this legislation until 2015. This is not convenient for the small artisanal producers as their costs of production are higher, as the time it takes to feed every duck is 10 times longer than by feeding ducks breed in small individual cages. The upside is that when this legislation is correctly enforced, duck product prices will increase and artisanal products will be more competitive. A similar situation occurred recently with the eggs.

The owners of the La Llueza claim that current Ministry of Health legislation for the elaboration and commercialisation of artisanal products is complex, very demanding and can be improved. But when we deal with food and people’s health it is never easy to create appropriate legislation. Farming without the appropriate installations and buildings, and without complying with the legal and economical aspects of the law, allow some producers to have better prices and earn more money but if at the same time it is an illegal activity, it is of no use to anybody.

The owners of the La Llueza say that often in the supposedly “artisanal” markets many producers resell industrial low-cost products without any sanitary or economic control. That is why those producers that work with higher quality and higher prices look like thieves. Besides, they can not reduce sales prices because they are selling direct, as contrary to popular belief direct sales do not mean less costs. Small producer’s have lower profit margins and they are more vulnerable to incur losses than large industrial producers. This couple from La Llueza thinks that every producer should comply with the legislation, regardless how absurd and unfair the laws might be, as laws should be the same for everyone. But, they also want to push for changes in legislation to adapt it to fit the current situation of the small producer, better

This entry was posted in One Sanction One Opportunity and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.