`Drought on Iberian Peninsula Expected to Persist Through November - Olive Oil Times

Drought on Iberian Peninsula Expected to Persist Through November

Sep. 9, 2022
Daniel Dawson

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Prayers for rain from olive grow­ers across the Iberian penin­sula have been left unan­swered, and a recent report from the European Commission warned that hot and dry weather will per­vade the region until November.

Composed of Spain and Portugal, the Iberian Peninsula has been respon­si­ble for about 46 per­cent of global olive oil pro­duc­tion over the past half-decade.

However, both coun­tries have grim fore­casts, with Spain expect­ing its low­est yield since the 2014/15 crop year – roughly 1 mil­lion tons. Portugal also expects a sig­nif­i­cant decline in pro­duc­tion com­pared to pre­vi­ous years, with about 100,000 tons of olive oil fore­cast for the 2022/23 crop year.

See Also:Europe Confronts Worst Drought in 500 Years, Officials Say

Farmers in both coun­tries have blamed the extremely hot and dry sum­mer for the pro­duc­tion decreases. The lack of rain has forced trees to con­serve water, lead­ing to the des­ic­ca­tion of olives or the trees not bear­ing any fruit.

According to the European Commission report, most of Portugal and parts of Spain received 50 per­cent less pre­cip­i­ta­tion in July and the first half of August com­pared with the 1991 to 2021 long-term aver­age.

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This com­pounds the extremely dry win­ter and spring faced by both coun­tries, with Portugal record­ing the sec­ond low­est amount of rain­fall in a hydro­log­i­cal year since 1931 and parts of Spain expe­ri­enc­ing the dri­est con­di­tions in more than 1,000 years.

Long-term fore­casts are no bet­ter on the Iberian Peninsula, with the European Commission pre­dict­ing that higher tem­per­a­tures and dry con­di­tions per­sist­ing through November.

The lack of rain­fall has forced farm­ers in Spain to rely solely on irri­ga­tion to water their crops. However, water lev­els in reser­voirs explic­itly used for this pur­pose are nearly 40 per­cent below design capac­ity, a level char­ac­ter­ized as excep­tion­ally low” by the European Commission.

Furthermore, water lev­els in Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura – the three largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions in Spain, respec­tively – sit at less than 30 per­cent capac­ity.

The sit­u­a­tion is sim­i­larly severe in Portugal, where Environment Minister Duarte Cordeiro said 10 of the country’s 61 dams are in a crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, with stored water vol­ume below 20 per­cent of capac­ity.

While offi­cials are study­ing water restric­tions for agri­cul­ture and the gen­eral pub­lic in both coun­tries, sea­wa­ter desalin­iza­tion is being dis­cussed as a long-term solu­tion to the peninsula’s water woes.

In this depart­ment, Spain has a head start with 700 desalin­iza­tion units in the coun­try, and the gov­ern­ment pledg­ing €300 mil­lion to expand capac­ity.

Portugal only has one active plant and is invest­ing €45 mil­lion to build another, poten­tially reach­ing 16 mil­lion cubic meters of potable water pro­duc­tion in the com­ing years.

However, some engi­neers are skep­ti­cal that expand­ing desali­na­tion plants is a long-term solu­tion. Desalination is an expen­sive and energy-inten­sive process. An invest­ment of this mag­ni­tude is not jus­ti­fied,” Sara Correi, an envi­ron­men­tal cam­paigner, told local media.

Environmental cam­paign­ers in Spain have sug­gested that the south of the coun­try may have to become less reliant on irri­gated agri­cul­ture, which con­sumes 85 per­cent of all water resources.

Unless we change the bal­ance, we can­not improve the state of our rivers or adapt to cli­mate change,” Julia Martinez, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of sci­en­tific-tech­ni­cal activ­i­ties at the New Water Culture Foundation, told the BBC.



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