‘Bread runs out fastest’

Vegetables, fruits, meat, cheese or fish are already no longer available in some supermarkets because protesting farmers are blocking distribution centers.Statue Robin van Lonkhuijsen / ANP

Supermarkets say they have already suffered tens of thousands of millions of euros in damage after a day and a half of farmers’ blockades at distribution centers. This damage is caused by lost revenue because inventories cannot be rebuilt.

Vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese or fish will no longer be available in some supermarkets on Tuesday as protesting farmers block distribution centers. If these protests continue, the shelves of fresh produce that still have something on them will also be empty later in the day, expects the Central Bureau of Food Trade (CBL), the trade association for supermarkets.

Tuesday morning, farmers blocked 11 distribution centers. During the day, various blockades were also completed, regardless of whether it was under the influence of a contingency order. On Monday, farmers barricaded twenty of the 35 supermarket supply centers.

Millions of injuries

The consequences are especially visible in the larger supermarkets, says a spokesman for CBL. They expect deliveries from the distribution centers two to three times a day. The empty holes in store shelves are starting to ‘take problematic forms’ in some places, the spokesman said. “Stores have a small warehouse and receive their entire warehouse from the centers, but now nothing.” The fresh items that cannot be delivered end up in the trash.

The loss of damage runs into millions of euros, the CBL expects. In addition, not only supermarkets but also hospitals and care centers receive food and other products from the distribution centers. That supply has also been cut off. The CBL suspects the supermarkets already filled up last weekend, but does not know to what extent these measures will compensate for the current disruption.

jars of sambal

It is not the case that unblocked distribution centers can just help elsewhere, says retail expert Paul Moers. Storage in the centers is close to supermarket demand, he says. Especially when it comes to fresh produce. “The bread runs out the fastest. Soon follow vegetables, fruits and meats. After two to three days without supply, the food is gone. ”

The problems will vary greatly regionally. “To get enough food, people will have to drive miles to a supermarket after a few days of such blockades,” Moers says. “I do not understand why the peasants get so much space for these blockades.”

The shelves with shelf-stable items will not be able to offer enough alternatives to the lack of fresh, he expects. “These shelves also need to be refilled almost daily. Important shelves, then the glasses with sambal will remain available. ”

When the farmer’s action group Farmers Defense Force (FDF) in 2019 announced that they would close the supply from distribution centers, the judge put a stop to it. However, the CBL cannot now fall back on that court decision because the FDF does not coordinate the current actions. The farmer blockades appear to have been agreed upon on chat platforms like Telegram.

First in the conversation

The CBL therefore again on Tuesday asked the police to ‘take a hard line.’ The police intervened in various places, including Sneek and Zwolle. Farmers were, among other things, fought with tear gas. National Police Chief Willem Woelders on Monday afternoon urged the distribution centers to speak to activists first. “Then maybe you can influence them better.”

But according to the CBL, the distribution centers are not a party to the conflict. “Farmers are clearly agitating against nitrogen policy, government policy,” the spokesman said. “We, but also citizens and companies, are now the victims. We are not involved in the discussion and expect the police to intervene. ”

CBL has a role in the conflict, says retail expert Moers. “If supermarkets pay farmers a little more for a liter of milk, they can also make money with fewer livestock. The CBL, farmers and politicians will have to talk together to make agriculture more sustainable. ”

Peasants’ clubs around the table with Remkes

All farmers’ clubs will sit down for a conversation led by Johan Remkes, who appointed the cabinet as mediator. This is what Nitrogen Minister Christianne van der Wal expects. “I also assume they will all eventually sit down at the table in August.” She can not imagine that there are organizations that are content to be talked about instead of with them.

A number of farmers’ clubs strongly criticized the election of Remkes as chairman. After all, Remkes was an informant for the current cabinet, and he wrote an important nitrogen report, on the basis of which the goals were set. Van der Wal thinks it’s a good thing that he’s familiar with this file and that he ‘does not have to fully understand’.

The opposition to choosing Remkes does not surprise her. “Whatever name you mention, it will always be criticized.” Remkes is the right one, says Van der Wal, who points out that some agricultural organizations would like to talk to Remkes. “He’s really very capable of leading the conversation in an independent way and getting parties around the table.” According to the Minister, it is particularly important that the discussion is started, also to restore calm in the nitrogen dossier.

The cabinet announced over the weekend that Remkes will lead discussions between farmers, the cabinet, provinces and other organizations (such as nature clubs). The House had asked for a mediator in response to farmers’ angry reaction to the Cabinet’s nitrogen plans.

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