Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Plastic Farms Need Plastic Farmers

According to La Voz de Almería, our plastic farms generate one million kilos of plastic waste each year. The plastic used to keep the hot moist atmosphere within and the burning sun and dry winds without perishes after a couple of years use. A company called Cicloagro has the concession to collect and recycle. How well they do it...?
Anyhow, in the same article, we are told that there are 30,000 hectares (300 square kilometres) of plastic farms in the province - the unsightly 'invernaderos' of western Almería.
I asked a farmer about this - 'Weren't there meant to be 30,000 hectares of invernaderos around twenty years ago - I keep seeing new ones springing up'.
According to him - and he's a member of the fruit-growers association CASI - there is now more than double the oft-reported figure, at 70,000 hectares - seven hundred square kilometres of plastic farms - stretched from Adra to Nijar.
One of the new problems for this important agricultural industry is that the Chinese - who used to import all the used plastic - have now stopped doing so. So Cicloagro, who's concession comes up soon, says they are not particularly interested in renegotiating another five years worth.
So, what will happen to the plastic?
Well, as the town hall in El Ejido has suggested, they could ask the Ministry of the Environment to come and lug it all off somewhere.
Just please, Fellows, don't chuck it all in the sea!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Early Remarks on Catalonia

The Catalonian results are in. As we wait to see what government - if any - can be formed. Here are a few early impressions.
As readers must know, there were seven essential candidatures. Three from the Independents, three from the 'Constitutionalists', and Podemos in the middle, slightly unsure of its place.
The largest vote went to a Constitutionalist party - the Ciudadanos Party of Inés Arramides - with 37 seats. Second and third place went to the exiled Carles Puigdemont (it's hard to campaign when you are in another country) with  34 seats for his JxCat and the imprisoned-in-Madrid Oriol Junqueras - ERC (it's even harder to campaign when you are in a jail cell. Indeed, he has had his 'privileges' removed for sending out a political message to his wife over the phone). The ERC pulled 32 seats.
Fourth went to the PSOE candidate, who works under the PSC name with 17. Fifth went to Podemos with eight seats..
Sixth and seventh went to the two smallest parties, who, on collecting less than five seats must work from the 'Grupo Mixto' bench: the unaligned. These uneasy bedmates are the radical anarchist independent republicans CUP with four seats and the, er, slightly to the right Partido Popular (pictured), champion of the still-in-effect Articulo 155, with a 'disappointing' three seats. An 'absolute majority' is 68 seats. Between the three independents - uneasy bedmates indeed - there are seventy.
As things are decided - hopefully Junqueras and Puigdemont have lieutenants who can speak for them - we turn to Madrid, where the batacazo of the Partido Popular in the Catalonian elections has done Rajoy no favours at all.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

We Love You

A cute advert from the region of Castilla-La Mancha - the area south of Madrid that's made up of the five provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara and Toledo. Famous, perhaps, for Don Quijote and El Greco. Maybe a few other things. Buy me a drink and I'll tell you.
But, what a campaign,  hey? We love you. We jus' wanna grab you and hug you and never never let you go. It's not about your pocket book, your cash or your Visa card. No, it's YOU we love and... (continue until fade out).

Friday, December 15, 2017

So Many: Too Many? Can You Squeeze in Another, Guv?

How many tourists can you fit on the head of a pin? The Ministry of Tourism would like to know.
Coming up in January is Spain's tourist fair, the FITUR, held in Madrid. I've been there half a dozen times over the years and, as the Reader can imagine, it's an enormous trade-fair which stretches through a number of pavilions. Most countries are represented there, as are all of Spain's autonomous regions, tourist areas, cities, resorts and hotel groups. Marbella... Costa Brava... PortAdventura... 
Even Gibraltar has a stand there.
For some years, Mojácar did too.
Like any trade fair, FITUR is all about finding new business; which, when it comes to tourism, means more tourists.
Spain makes a lot of money from tourism, which it needs to help balance the books. This year, around eighty million foreign visitors will have experienced Spain, all leaving behind a quantity of money, while taking home with them little more than a hangover and a sunburn.
Now that's a good deal for Spain.
Furthermore, the Spanish themselves are no slouches when it comes to taking a holiday in Andalucía, Mallorca or the Costa Brava. In the summer season, a number of cities - Granada, Seville and Córdoba for example, - are filled to the brim (much to the joy of the hoteliers and the souvenir shop-owners). New tourist routes are being opened up - the Chinese in particular are beginning to arrive, and they like museums and historical sites. 
And souvenir shops.
Barcelona now has so many foreigners that the dreaded word 'turismofobia' has been coined (sic) to describe the reaction by the local residents.
But, who cares. Spain is making money. At least, until there's a terrorist attack, a political upheaval, an earthquake, a cholera outbreak, or the Italians suddenly (and unexpectedly) lower their prices.
But now the authorities themselves are waking up to 'tourist saturation'. It finally occurred to someone that it's not the amount of visitors you want, it's how much you can wring from their pockets. In short: You have parking for a hundred cars. Which is better for business: Seats or BMWs?
So, says the WTTC - the World Travel and Tourism Council - what to do? First, try and spread the visits across the year: make the season longer. School holidays should be spread out maybe? They don't say. Secondly - try and persuade the visitors to go to less attractive spots. Two weeks in Teruel anyone? The third suggestion (we hope somebody is getting paid for this) is to adjust prices upwards to better reflect supply and demand (Dominican Republic, here we come). Fourth is 'control the lodgings available'. This of course is an idea favoured by the hoteliers and consists of closing down all other lodgings, Airbnb and the guest suite upstairs. The fifth and final suggestion is to 'limit or curtail certain activities'.
What, like drinking and sunbathing?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Circulation Figures

There are essentially two auditors of the Spanish media - the OJD which measures how many copies are printed, and the slightly larger, but perhaps less believable, EGM, which says how many people read them (or see or listen to them in the case of broadcasters). The OJD is older, similar to the British ABC.
The EGM sometimes appears to be quite generous with the numbers - with twelve people, for example, reading each and every copy of our local daily newspaper. Perhaps that includes Internet visitors (who rarely read an entire newspaper on the screen).
I once owned a 'free' newspaper with three editions (The Entertainer), rather before these things were popular. We were printing 40,000 copies for a while there, although the OJD rather unkindly audited us at a disappointing 39,950. They then wanted to triple their price because it was, you know, three editions. With the unsurprising result that...
OJD exits left, followed by bear.
Printing papers these days is quite expensive. Let us say, as a nice round figure (variables include colour, pagination and of course volume), one euro a copy. Distribution is extra - getting them to the corner newspaper kiosk (or, in the case of the freebies, to the corner bar or shop). Distribution for the ordinary press is a bit cheaper per unit, because the costs are shared, although it remains disturbingly high (see the figures here). A large agency like Boyacá picks them up and takes them fast to the sales points - essentially for all of the competing titles. 
In the case of the freebies, it's each one for himself (although the EWNMG has now acquired a couple of its erstwhile competitors which must lower their unit distribution costs).
There are, of course, many other costs typical to any business: premises, staff, transport, social security and bird-food for the parrot.
However, the printing costs are higher these days than ever, and - for the regular newspapers - readership is down. Profit, if there is to be any, must come from the advertisers. This, as we have seen elsewhere (BoTs passim) leads to manipulation of the news items, especially when the juicy institutional advertising accounts are signed. Even so, some of the major Spanish dailies (including the ABC, El País and La Vanguardia) are now talking of reducing their editions to just two or three a week in 2018.
The weekly free newspapers, particularly (and of course!) the foreign-owned foreign-language freebies, get no institutional advertising at all. They also (in  my experience) get no, or very little, Spanish agency advertising. You can search all day without finding any adverts for Volkswagens, Parador hotels, Nesquik, toothpaste or cough medicines. Perhaps to save the agency the bother of a second advert in another language, perhaps to keep them focused on the traditional high-volume kick-back paid by their larger customers, known as un rápel, and perhaps because it's 'all in the family', which doesn't include furriners (sorry).
While a normal newspaper goes to the kiosk, and a free publication can be easily put into the letterbox, in the case of foreign-language free-sheets we must ask the reader to pick up a copy, which means there must be something to read. Costs again go up.
So what do they live on? Local advertisers, usually foreigners. Which brings us back to where we started: the circulation figures. I looked at the EWN's slightly alarming Media Pack (which begins with a Donald Trump quote) and found a claim of 'more than half a million copies per month' (a month has, I guess, 4.3 weeks in it) and a readership of  'more than half a million readers per week'. I wrote the other day and asked them for some audited figures, but haven't heard anything from them so far. At a presumed 120,000 copies per week (six editions), they have a higher print run than the 99,000 daily sales figure reported for El País!
Newspapers, free ones and paid for ones, have all fallen for the charms of the Internet. The thing is - it's almost free. You just pay the writers (and, in the certain cases, the lay-out artists), and you wait for your readers to show up. Some Spanish dailies, like El Diario and El Español, only exist as cyber-news.
Then there are the bloggers, who (like Spanish Shilling) apparently do their thing for free!
The readers, of course, are going to be visiting more than just one site (one newspaper), receiving a plurality of differently-shaded news. They probably won't dwell on the advertisers any more than they do reading a newspaper. After all, with the TV or radio, you are forced to sit through an advert: with a newspaper, you simply turn the page.
With the subscription news-service Business over Tapas (here) - there's no adverts to be leery of (although...).

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Market Day

The Sunday market just outside El Alquilán (the town near the Almería airport) is massive. It starts on a roundabout - things in Andalucía are often informal - and reaches up a roadway for a kilometre or more. There's a roast chicken stand at the bottom, together with a chocolate and churro waggon and a number of tables, and then the market begins. The first half a kilometre is for clothes - cheap shoes, bras, tee shirts, jackets, children's outfits, hats, sweaters and scarves. The stalls are on each side. 'Cheap, cheap, how do we do it?' calls one toothless old chap. 'Buy them now, these prices can't last', shouts a scrawny-looking woman. The market-people are Arabs, Spaniards, Gypsies, Africans, Orientals and many others. The walkway is crowded. There are thousands of people looking for a bargain. Some are returning from further up the market, where the cheese, fruit, olives and ornamental plants are sold. Among the crowds, a number of manteros - Africans without papers -  hover over a sheet covered in shoes or CDs, watching for the brightly-uniformed municipal cop, whose job is either to fine them, or more likely frighten them away. The Africans will pick up their sheet by the four corners and be off, as the cop comes within about fifty metres of them. They head out and around, setting up once again just behind him.
We buy a few clothes and take some surreptitious pictures. The market is like something from Latin America. 'Watch your pockets', I'm told redundantly. 
Outside and heading towards where we left our vehicle, a man catches up with us - 'look at my jackets', he says, opening the boot of his nearby car. 'Genuine leather, just the thing for you', he looks meaningfully at me.
What a salesman.