Fury over imports leaves nut factory in flames

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The Independent Online
Barcelona (Reuter) - A nut factory was burned down in northeast Spain by a little-known band of revolutionaries protesting at imports of Turkish hazelnuts, a regional government spokesman said yesterday.

"Traitor importers, Turkish hazelnuts, death," was found daubed on a wall that was left standing.

The factory belonged to Borges SA de Reus which has 60 per cent of the Spanish nut market. Twenty-five fire engines took four hours to extinguish the blaze which destroyed tons of almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts, causing an estimated pounds 25m of damage.

A caller to a Spanish news agency claimed the Revolutionary Peasants' Union was responsible and said the fire was a warning. "This is the first time we've heard of them," the spokesman in the Catalan agriculture department said.

Turkish hazelnuts have been flooding into Spain in recent months, he said. Tariffs fell last year to zero for the first 25,000 tons of raw hazelnuts and four per cent thereafter, and nuts also come in tariff-free under the category of processed food.

"It's distorting the market because production costs are infinitely lower in Turkey than here," the spokesman said.

The official Peasants' Union has already denounced Borges for selling Turkish hazelnuts under a local label.