The agricultural sector in Spain is in dire straits and risks incurring huge losses due to extreme heat and a lack of rainfall, warned Agrosegur, an agricultural insurance association.
It is still too early to estimate the losses the sector might incur since it may rain in the coming weeks, which would reduce the damage to crops.
Most regions of southern Spain and some parts in the north, including Catalonia, are feeling the effect of the prolonged drought. Agrosegur said the sector is likely to lose up to €210 million unless rains come soon.See Also:Climate Change Is Making Droughts More Frequent and Severe
According to AEMET, Spain’s meteorological agency, January 2022 was the driest since 1961 and had the highest recorded temperatures. On average, the country was 2.1 ºC hotter than usual.
AEMET said the second driest January experienced in this century was in 2005. The national weather office added that farmers would need emergency subsidies if rain does not come in the next two weeks.
In Castilla-La Mancha, the situation is worrying, and crops will likely be ruined entirely unless it rains in the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, in Extremadura, cereal and vegetable crops struggle as the Guadiana Hydrographic Confederation limits irrigation due to reservoirs’ low water levels.
Andalusia, the world’s largest olive oil-producing region by a wide margin, is one of the hardest-hit regions in Spain.
Winter did not come with sufficient rains, which are critical for olive tree budding and flowering. To make matters worse, Guadalquivir, the most vital river in Andalusia, is at 28 percent of its capacity.
According to the Association of Young Farmers and Ranchers in Catalonia (JARC), in some parts of northern Spain, farmers have lost about 30 percent of their crops to prolonged dry spells and continue to lose 10 percent every week rain does not fall. Moreover, if rains do not come soon, JARC estimated that farmers would lose €300 to €400 per hectare.
The Coordinator of Agriculture and Livestock Organizations (COAG), the leading association of farmers and ranchers in Spain, said that about 50 percent of farms in the country are staring at financial ruin due to drought this year.
If things do not change and enough rain does not arrive soon, within weeks, crops that rely on rain such as olives, cereals and vineyards will register losses between 60 percent and 80 percent.
In southern Almería, Andrés Góngora, a 46-year-old tomato farmer, is a worried man. He expects water from a desalination plant upon which he relies for irrigation to start being rationed.
“The past two, three years have been dry, with the tendency toward less and less rain,” he said. “The cereal crops for this year have been lost.”