By Humphrey Carter

THE strike by Spanish, French and Portuguese lorry drivers took a firm grip on the Balearics yesterday with supermarkets selling their last kilos of fresh meat and fish and consumers continuing to panic buy items such as rice, pasta and non-perishables amidst fears the industrial action could leave the region crippled until the start of next week, even if angry truck drivers call their protest off soon.

The biggest problem is that the ports of Barcelona and Valencia have been brought to a stand still and are surrounded by a blockade of parked up lorries.

Nearly all shipping to and from the Balearics was cancelled yesterday and there is going to be little maritime activity again today.
And, a two-day strike by local fishing fleets means that there is no local fresh fish being caught to compensate.
Mercapalma, Palma's main fresh produce wholesaler reported yesterday afternoon that all of its distributors have no more fresh meat and fish and the director of supermarket chain Eroski in the Balearics, Fernando Pereda, said that the chain of 145 supermarkets was starting to run out of certain perishable goods yesterday and that next to suffer will be fruit and vegetables, much of which has to be shipped from the mainland.

He also confirmed that many of their outlets have reported an increase in demand with consumers stocking up on food.
However, he said that there is no need for alarm because with regards to “long life” products, the chain has plenty in stock.
Nevertheless, those who did manage to purchase fresh meat and fish yesterday were forced to pay a premium.
Sources for the Majorcan small business association confirmed yesterday that fish and meat prices had risen slightly and that if the transport strike continues into next week “there will be serious problems.” Due to a lack of suppliers, the price of fish in Majorca's fish market yesterday rose by ten percent, according to the association which also warned that, in the event of a long strike, consumers will be forced to pay the price not only for imported products but also Majorcan ones too.

Association sources said that the Balearics has enough food stocks to last until the weekend “but is not varied enough to meet demand.”