Market Forces

Weekly markets in Teguise and Costa Teguise have been seriously affected after several stall holders selling fresh produce and handicrafts have effectively been barred from trading through no fault of their own.

Some sellers have threatened to quit the market and never return.”

The problem began in early July, when Teguise Ayuntamiento announced that the tendering process for licences permitting stallholders to operate had expired. This tender was opened in 2014, after which scores of sellers applied for licences. These were assessed in 2015, but after that date the sellers heard nothing from the Ayuntamiento until it was announced that the time limits for the licensing procedure had expired.

As a result, several of the stallholders selling fresh local produce and crafts in the markets at Teguise and Costa Teguise were effectively operating illegally, and were fined by Local Police officers.

In early July, a protest was mounted outside Teguise town hall while councillors held a meeting.

Protestors claimed that the Ayuntamiento’s failure to resolve the situation could result in the loss of 88 jobs. They allege that elements within the local police are issuing fines to highlight the failures of the Ayuntamiento, and that they are innocent victims of this internal power struggle.

One stallholder showed us a recent promotional video issued by the Ayuntamiento in which the Tourism Councillor is shown at the market in Costa Teguise’s Pueblo Marinero, praising the local traditions and products on offer. “Later, they were fining stallholders,” we were told. Fernando Redondo, vice-president of the artesans’ association AICAL, says “The Ayuntamiento has decided that it’s better to sacrifice us than themselves”.

In response to the protests, Teguise Ayuntamiento announced a new tendering process in late July, which would result in new licences being granted. However, AICAL complains that this process only allows 74 licences, while the original tender permitted 99. Fernando Redondo also says that his association requested that traders be allowed to continue selling until the new tender has been decided, but that no response was forthcoming. This has left the Teguise market depleted and the Costa Teguise market empty in August, when the island is at its busiest.

Sellers are also complaining about the criteria that will be used to select stalls. The Ayuntamiento has stressed that “experience” will be the main factor, based on the period of time stallholders have been operating. This, according to Fernando Redondo, does not reflect other factors such as professionality, materials used and skill, and will penalise newer craft workers hoping to sell their products. He claims that his association have proposed fairer judgment criteria, but have not been listened to.

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IMAGE PROBLEMS
The problem’s at Teguise’s markets are not just affecting the livelihoods of stallholders. They are also reflecting negatively on the island’s image for tourists.

While Teguise’s huge Sunday market is one of the island’s most popular regular tourist attractions, there have always been complaints about the quality of many of the stalls, where counterfeit designer goods and tacky souvenirs predominate. One of the main complaints on both Spanish and British Tripadvisor sites is that the products on sale are not local and do not reflect Lanzarote’s unique heritage.

The arrival of a local food market some years ago helped to change that perception, and from a tourism point of view few can argue that local craftsmen and women only help to improve the market’s image. However, it is these traders that have recently been fined and, effectively, prevented from attending the market.

Other market traders have complained about the decision to suspend the market entirely on the 16th July, one of the busiest trading days of the year. This was done to allow the procession in honour of the Virgin of Carmen, whose feast day fell on the date, but traders say they were not informed of the decision until a week before.

Quote: Crafts and fresh food are at the heart of Lanzarote’s tourist appeal.”

THE WAY AHEAD
Crafts and fresh local food have been key elements in Lanzarote’s decision to renew its tourism model as well as promote small businesses on the island.

Just over ten years ago there were few food stalls in Arrecife, Costa Teguise or the Sunday market at Teguise. However, local farmers, working with island authorities, have transformed this, and it is now possible to buy organic vegetables, fresh cheese, home made wines and other products all over the island at various markets.

Craftsmen and women have also helped to transform towns such as Teguise and Haría, blending traditional skills such as basketry and cochineal dying with new developments in fashion, jewellery and art.

Surely these traders should be receiving encouragement and support from the authorities, rather than the recent persecution and threats to their livelihood?