These days, due to the sociopolitical context in Spain, the word “boycott” has become commonplace, probably without the majority of people being aware that they have been practiced in the food sector for years, but have been dressed with concepts or nomenclatures that are more politically correct.
To boycott is to impede or interrupt the normal undertaking of a process or act as a means of protest or as a means of pressure to achieve something. Products such as palm oil or sugar have recently been immersed in a demonizing campaign to make them responsible for numerous evils. This has and continues to be true for brand name milk from the distributor, manipulated allusion links better price to lower quality. It has also happened with fish…and we could continue on with many more products because at any time of the year, whether due to problems of price, production and origin, there is always some boycotted product or company. Every year without exception.
Here, we don’t wish to debate the damages or benefits of food, rather one of the questions we raise is if the citizen thinks about the consequences of boycotts. There is no reliable data, at least that is publicly available, that exactly quantifies the drop in consumption of, for example, palm oil. However, the evidence we have shows a drop in prices at the origin. The same happens with sugar, which for example, dropped 40% in 5 months on the international market.
We do know that evolving demographics contributes to the drop in consumption of milk, and that campaigns that question its quality without a doubt harm the product.
But when demand for one product falls, normally demand for the other goes up. In the case of palm oil, the counterpoint is butter. After publishing several studies praising the properties of butter (it wasn’t long ago that it was vilified, by the way), it has been made into the star of the commodities market, reaching historical prices…The fall in milk consumption has its counterpoint in the demand for vegetable drinks, and we could continue on with the others.
Change, therefore, is obvious and always has been, but is it really change that the consumer wants?
Speaking of boycotts, it was inevitable to bring up Catalan products during these times. Trying to reflect beyond what we’re seeing and hearing in the media, many products that by definition are of Catalan origin are in part from other regions of Spain (because of its packaging or the preparation involved). When a boycott is considered, who is damaged most? And who really benefits from it? Perhaps other products from other Autonomous Communities, or perhaps, in a globalized world with markets so open, it’s possible that other neighboring countries have come out on top that at one point were boycotted…
In day-to-day business, companies have been willing to provide data of their purchases to other countries, but there is a difference between the CIF of a company, its headquarters and its factories.
Behind every product, and behind every company, there are many employees and citizens. We shouldn’t boycott “flippantly” because in most cases, we don’t know what we’re boycotting.