Olive Growers in Madrid Benefit from CAP Funds

Officials in Madrid have released €8.5 million from the Common Agricultural Policy to promote traditional landscapes and biodiversity in the capital region.
Madrid president Isabel Díaz Ayuso visited Recespaña Sociedad Cooperativa in Villarejo de Salvanés (AP)
By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 11, 2023 14:38 UTC

Officials in the autonomous com­mu­nity of Madrid have approved the release of funds from Spain’s national strate­gic plan for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to sup­port organic and tra­di­tional olive groves.

The ini­tia­tive pro­vides €8.5 mil­lion to olive grow­ers in Madrid until 2027, when the cur­rent CAP expires, who fol­low the require­ments and the com­mit­ments included in the pol­icy.

It is very inter­est­ing to pro­mote bio­di­ver­sity and tra­di­tional olive trees,” Pedro Laguna, owner of Villaconejos-based Oleum Laguna, told Olive Oil Times. This will also help grow­ers who suf­fered the huge dam­age caused by Storm Filomena in 2021 when many trees had to be felled and new plan­ta­tions took their place.”

The fund­ing announce­ment came after the European Union approved the Protected Designation of Origin cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced in Madrid.

See Also:Olive Oil Production Expected to Fall Below 1M Tons in Spain

When we think about Madrid, we all visu­al­ize the cap­i­tal with its large build­ings, muse­ums, restau­rants, asphalt and cars,” Laguna said. But in the region, there is also farm­land. Even though it is not that large, we have a vibrant agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity.”

There are about 20,000 hectares of olive groves in the com­mu­nity of Madrid, rep­re­sent­ing approx­i­mately one per­cent of Spain’s total olive-grow­ing sur­face area.

To be eli­gi­ble for the fund­ing, the regional gov­ern­ment requires farm­ers to fol­low tra­di­tional olive cul­ti­va­tion prac­tices instead of plant­ing at high-den­sity or super-high-den­sity (inten­sive or super-inten­sive) for a min­i­mum of five years.

Furthermore, farm­ers must have at least one hectare of olive groves with between 60 and 150 trees fol­low­ing a reg­u­lar and homoge­nous dis­tri­b­u­tion” to receive funds.

Eligible farm­ers will receive €100 per hectare up to 40 hectares. Traditional farms larger than 40 hectares will receive €60 per hectare.

Like many of his col­leagues in Villaconejos, about 40 kilo­me­ters south of the cap­i­tal, Laguna cul­ti­vates tra­di­tional and high-den­sity olive groves on 55 hectares.

We work with tra­di­tional cen­tury-old olive trees which were planted in 10 by 10 meter lots,” he said. These are quite dif­fer­ent than the 2 by 5 meters of the inten­sive olive crops.”

In Villaconejos, there are olive trees more than 300 years old,” Laguna added. Local olive grow­ers are quite knowl­edge­able about this type of plant, a knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence passed on to the younger gen­er­a­tions.”

Along with har­vest­ing his olives, Laguna also buys olives from other local grow­ers in Vallaconejos, which is home to a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the region’s olive groves, along with the nearby munic­i­pal­i­ties of Las Vegas, Suroccidental and La Campiña.

The area pro­duces up to 6,500 tons of olive oil in an aver­age sea­son, and seven of the 18 active olive mills focus solely on organic olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Many tra­di­tional grow­ers in the area have a long tra­di­tion of organic farm­ing, which has helped pro­tect the area’s rich bio­di­ver­sity.

Any organic prod­uct is the bearer of health, and when we are talk­ing about extra vir­gin olive oils, that is even more so, given its high con­tent in oleic acid and polyphe­nols,” Laguna said.

We use com­post and manure to increase the soil’s organic mat­ter; we work to have our soil bet­ter retain nutri­ents and mois­ture, thus decreas­ing water stress for the olives,” he added. At the farm, we also work on the plant cover to fix nitro­gen nat­u­rally and avoid soil ero­sion.”

Laguna’s fam­ily has grown olives in Madrid for at least four gen­er­a­tions. Since 2017, my sis­ter Pilar and I started a project to build an organic, envi­ron­men­tally-friendly farm focused on early har­vests and high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion,” Laguna said.

While olive oil is at the core of Spanish cui­sine, the gen­eral pub­lic pays far less atten­tion to how it is pro­duced or whether it is organic. However, Laguna said this may be start­ing to change.

There is still a long way to go in terms of edu­ca­tion, but there is more con­cern about the eco­log­i­cal issue, and this makes con­sumers increas­ingly dif­fer­en­ti­ate organic food from con­ven­tional food,” Laguna said.

Besides pub­lic fund­ing and the acknowl­edg­ment that tra­di­tional groves are most com­pat­i­ble with main­tain­ing bio­di­ver­sity, Laguna believes that pre­serv­ing tra­di­tional olive groves requires pro­mot­ing the cul­ture behind them.

We started offer­ing oleo­tourism expe­ri­ences, through which our guests can visit the fields, see first­hand the process of olive trans­for­ma­tion and taste our three dif­fer­ent types of extra vir­gin olive oils,” he said.


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