Catalonia Pledges €1M to Filomena Recovery, Rejects Most Aid Requests

Local olive farmers are angry after 65 percent of applications for recovery aid were rejected. They argue the authorities are underestimating long-term damage.
Catalan Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda
Dec 18, 2021 7:50 AM EST
Simon Roots

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To com­pen­sate farm­ers for the costs incurred in recov­ery efforts, the Catalonian regional gov­ern­ment has approved more than €1 mil­lion in sub­si­dies for olive farm­ers affected by the Storm Filomena last January.

A total of 623 appli­ca­tions for com­pen­sa­tion were sub­mit­ted, of which 89 were not accepted due to non-com­pli­ance with the require­ments, and 23 were with­drawn. Of the remain­ing 511,170 were approved, and 341 were denied.

It is very dif­fi­cult to deter­mine the pro­duc­tive poten­tial if you have not been here before.- Víctor Sas, irri­ga­tion tech­ni­cian

Only groves with dam­age exceed­ing 30 per­cent were eli­gi­ble. The area in which this level of dam­age was found was cal­cu­lated to com­prise 1,245 hectares.

To deter­mine the degree of dam­age, tech­ni­cians from the Catalan Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda used a com­bi­na­tion of on-site assess­ment and pho­tographs sub­mit­ted by appli­cants through a mobile app.

See Also: Spain Deploys Police to Monitor Olive Harvest

However, Catalan olive farm­ers have protested the deci­sion to deny 65 per­cent of the appli­ca­tions for com­pen­sa­tion. They argue that the assess­ment under­es­ti­mated the long-term dam­age that the snow inflicted upon their trees.

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Miquel Maria Prunera is among the farm­ers who did not receive aid. Located in Garrigues, one of Catalonia’s main olive-pro­duc­ing regions, he told local media that his 2021 har­vest was nearly 98 per­cent lower than the pre­vi­ous one. In 2020, I weighed 41,000 kilo­grams and this year only 900,” he said.

In Bovera, one of the main cities in Garrigues, both the mayor and a local irri­ga­tion tech­ni­cian said the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda should return and employ local tech­ni­cians to esti­mate the dam­age done to olive grow­ers.

It’s a com­pli­cated area, and not being tech­ni­cians from the area, they did what they could,” Òscar Acero, the mayor of Bovera, told local media.

It is very dif­fi­cult to deter­mine the pro­duc­tive poten­tial if you have not been here before,” added Víctor Sas, the irri­ga­tion tech­ni­cian.

Approximately 46,000 hectares of olive groves in Catalonia were impacted by the Storm Filomena, which left five peo­ple dead and caused an esti­mated €1.8 bil­lion in dam­age. While com­pen­sa­tion was pro­vided ear­lier in the year, the full extent of the impact was not imme­di­ately appar­ent.

As Lluís Gaya, head of the olive sec­tor at the Association of Young Farmers and Ranchers in Catalonia (JARC), explained in September: After prun­ing, farm­ers found a higher impact and a much big­ger prun­ing job than in other years to remove all of the branches bro­ken by the weight of the snow.”

He added that other branches had pre­vi­ously looked in good con­di­tion, but were bro­ken, and now with the weight of the olives, they have given way or will do so before har­vest.”

Damage such as this can be caused not only by phys­i­cal stresses but also by micro­scopic destruc­tion caused by water inside the tree freez­ing and rup­tur­ing cell walls.

As prob­lems of this nature can have long-term impacts, calls for addi­tional aid in the future can­not be ruled out.





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