Minister of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs of Spain, Rosa Aguilar Rivero, center, speaks to journalists. Tibor Olah/AP/Press Association Images

Spain considers action against Germany over cucumber scare

The Spanish agriculture sector has been plunged into turmoil, with €200 million being lost each week and thousands of workers laid off in a country already suffering the highest unemployment rate in the EU.

SPAIN IS CONSIDERING taking action against German regional authorities for placing the blame for the deadly outbreak of E.coli on Spanish cucumbers.

Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said that action may be taken against Hamburg, after the suggestion that Spanish produce was contaminated with the pathogen led to enormous losses in the country’s agriculture sector, Reuters reports. An estimated €200 million is being lost each week as a result of the scare.

Rubalcaba told radio station Cadena Ser:  ”There has never been a case of (E.coli infection) in Spain, which means the bacteria is not in Spain.”

“We do not rule out taking action against authorities which have cast doubt on the quality of our produce, so action may be taken against the authorities, in this case, of Hamburg,” he added.

Although originally pointing the finger at Spanish produce, Germany conceded today that Spanish cucumbers are not the source of the E.coli outbreak that has left 16 people dead and hundreds seriously ill. Fifteen of the fatalities have taken place in Germany and one in Sweden; the Swedish person who died had recently travelled to Germany.

There is fury in Spain at the suggestion that it was responsible for the fatal outbreak; the country’s agriculture minister Rosa Aguilar said last night that “irreparable damage” had been done to Spain’s production sector. Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary, Sweden, Belgium and Russia all placed bans Spanish cucumbers following suggestions the produce had been the source of contamination.

Juan Antonio Díaz Planelles, commercial director of one of Almería’s leading fruit and vegetable merchants, Agroiris, told El País that his company was forced to reduce production from the normal output of 1,300 tons  to just 100 tons after orders were cancelled. Yesterday the warehouse, which usually employs about 750 people, closed until further notice.

The blow to the agriculture sector is one that Spain can ill-afford: the country is suffering the highest unemployment rate in the EU, currently standing at 21.3 per cent. El Mundo reports that the scare has threatened up to 300,000 jobs in the Spanish countryside.

The areas worst affected by the scare are in southern Spain, specifically Málaga and Almería after suggestions that contaminated cucumbers were produced by two farms located there.

Today the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Environment and President of the Andalusian Parliament will meet to discuss the crisis – and consider whether to proceed with action against Hamburg, reports the Almerían newspaper Ideal.

Read more: Spanish cucumbers not responsible for E.coli outbreak >