Spanish growers press for Argentine lemon veto in wake of Repsol debacle

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Spanish growers press for Argentine lemon veto in wake of Repsol debacle

Spanish growers are calling for a ban on lemon imports following the Argentine government's steps towards the nationalization of petroleum company YPF, website reported.

The move sparked outrage as Spanish company Repsol held a majority stake in YPF.

Alicante Young Farmers' Association (ASAJA) president Eladio Aniorte is pressing for an embargo on imports, not just in Spain but for the whole of Europe.

"The member countries have a common trade policy, so that when problems arise, everybody must work together to solve them. It is logical," he was quoted as saying.

European officials are believed to be looking at ways to support Spain in fighting the proposed Argentine move.

Spain's agriculture minister Miguel Arias Cañete, described the move as "emotional" and "hostile" to Spain in an ABC radio interview.

"It's a decision that has not been thought out for the long term. It's bad for Argentina itself because it places the country in a very complicated situation in the international arena, " he was quoted as saying.

ASAJA Alicante said the issue gave Arias Cañete the opportunity to defend national production and curb Argentine imports.

"This would enhance the marketability of the Verna lemon, which is currently in season. They should prohibit a even single kilo of lemons entering the country after the decision has been approved," said Aniorte.

Alicante accounts for 40% of Spain's lemon production, covering 20,000 hectares and employing 10,000 people, although in recent years the sector has come under increasing pressure.

Since 2000-2010 its estimated the province has lost 4,100 hectares of lemon groves due to low domestic prices. ASAJA Alicante predicts more farms will be abandoned in the future due to low lemon profitability.

Repsol executive chairman Antonio Brufau said  the company would launch a legal action against the appropriation.

Repsol shares plunged when Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's announced a law allowing Argentina to take control of YPF, its former national oil company in which Repsol has a 57.4% stake.

Lawyers have said Argentina is legally allowed to take back YPF, which was sold to Repsol for US$15 billion in 1999, as long as shareholders were paid.

The Argentine government has defended its action accusing Repsol of failing to discuss gas, oil and fuel prices or give an accurate assessment of its environmental liabilities.

Argentine Senate Committee members met this week to examine the executive bill with legislators expected to review it next week.

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