The Count strip charges a renewed present now that thousands of farmers report the negligible prices of its products, although its origin dates back to the twelfth century. Perhaps for that long tradition a certain pride was noticed when the farmers, who sell without intermediaries their own vegetables and fruits, They pronounced the name of the Count strip in the 6,000 square meters available in Mercavalencia.
The stacked boxes make up the aisles and the stops in this open space, with white walls, which smells mostly of tender onion and leek. “Here we sell freshly picked vegetables from our garden. Look what artichoke, ”says Pepe, of Torrent, while displaying a resounding, tight, more round than elongated specimen. When he breaks it, his rose-shaped heart emerges. Sales of turnips, chard or oranges are dispatched at small high tables, which barely fit the notebooks and glasses of coffee with half-drunk milk. In each session you can gather up to 300 farmers of the 1,300 registered in their own ship, located next to that of the wholesalers. Because of its atmosphere, it reminds of a popular market but not everyone can enter.
“La Tira is a centuries-old focal institution in which Valencian farmers sell the products we grow to small businesses and municipal markets, without intermediaries or wholesalers. The price is marked by us based on supply and demand, not marked by the large area or the wholesaler, but the market, ”explains Javier Roig, president of the Strip.
The product is fresh, of quality, of proximity, of kilometer zero, sustainable parameters recommended by FAO (the UN agency for food and agriculture). “The price is more fair, yes, and we offer more quality and guarantee of the origin of the product, but it is very difficult to compete with the prices of the large surfaces,” adds this farmer from the town of Alginet. The prices, in fact, are more expensive than usual, although they vary greatly depending on the product and quality. A farmer sold a box of seven kilos of artichokes for seven euros, and another for 19.
Theoretically, only the farmers of the so-called Vega of Valencia can sell in the Strip, which has its roots in the Taifa kingdom of Balansiya (Valencia in Arabic). Then, the farmers formed a line and a magistrate (the muhtasib) governed trade and was responsible for controlling weights and measures. The sale was made by counting the pieces. With the reconquest, King Jaume I consolidated in 1238 the practice, which soon the farmers began to call the Strip of Counting instead of the row, and changed the name of the commercial authority to almotacén or mostaçaf, figure would be replicated in Mallorca and Barcelona. Almost three centuries later, the great humanist Juan Luis Vives wrote: What a great market, what a good order and distribution of merchandise! There are no orchards equal to those that supply this city. “
The Strip of Counting would be impossible without the popular orchard that continues to surround the city of Valencia and barely endure the urban and man pressure. That is why the transposition of a model that has been maintained over time with many ups and downs is complicated. And the competition of the low prices makes a dent to all, as well as the abandonment of the field by the younger generations. “In addition, we have to compete with products that come from South Africa or Morocco that are not required either phytosanitary guarantees, or the manipulator card, or working conditions here …”, points out Carmen, from Valencia, in coincidence with one the pretenses repeated these days in the mobilizations of the professionals of the field. “And in Europe, we farmers always lose out in negotiations against fisheries agreements with Morocco,” he adds.
Among the boxes of vegetables, some turbans are also seen. They are buyers from Pakistan or India who run small fruit shops. Farmers José, Pepe and Carmen agree on highlighting the opening of these stores that open Saturdays and Sundays because they have noticed an increase in sales on Fridays. On the contrary, when shopping centers open holidays, demand decreases.
There has also been a greater interest in this agriculture among young people, “who is usually more aware”, although if the situation is explained and how our product arrives freshly taken from the field to the elderly, it also responds, says Jordi. This young farmer is part of the Strip of Counting, but he sells his organic products on Saturdays directly to the consumer in the vicinity of a central market in Valencia. This sale is also allowed in El Cabanyal, outside Mercavalencia. The Councilor for Markets, Carlos Galiana, wants to extend this practice to more districts of the city. “The Strip of Counting has helped me stabilize as a farmer,” says Jordi.