Producers Warn of 'Incalculable Damage' in Wake of Filomena

Asaja Madrid estimates that the region's olive harvest will fall by 35 percent as a result of the blizzard.
Recespaña Cooperative
Jan. 15, 2021
Daniel Dawson

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Storm Filomena has caused an esti­mated €12 mil­lion of dam­age to olive grow­ers in the Community of Madrid alone, accord­ing to the regional branch of the Association of Young Farmers (Asaja Marid).

The his­toric win­ter storm passed through Spain on January 8 and 9, dump­ing 50 cen­time­ters of snow on the cen­tral and north­ern parts of the coun­try and killing four peo­ple. It was the largest bliz­zard to hit the Iberian penin­sula in more than 50 years.

We are talk­ing about future losses of €10 mil­lion per year until the olive groves return to their cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.- Francisco José García, pres­i­dent, Asaja Madrid

According to Francisco José García, the pres­i­dent of Asaja Madrid, at least half of the 63,000 tons of olives that had not yet been har­vested in the autonomous com­mu­nity prior to the onset of the bliz­zard were irrepara­bly dam­aged.

In total, an esti­mated 90,000 tons of olives were expected to be har­vested in the 2020/21 crop year. Based on ini­tial esti­mates, this fig­ure is likely to fall to 58,500 tons.

See Also: 2020 Harvest Updates

We had barely har­vested 30 per­cent of the esti­mated 13 mil­lion kilo­grams of olives. Of all the amount that remained, we will surely lose three or four mil­lion,” said Julián Valdericeda, the sec­re­tary of the Community of Madrid-based Recespaña Cooperative. And this is a very opti­mistic esti­mate because the dam­age can­not yet be accu­rately assessed due to the dif­fi­cul­ties in mobil­ity.”

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Recespaña Cooperative

We have barely been able to advance a kilo­me­ter in an absolutely snowy envi­ron­ment,” he added. All of the olives are under the snow.”

Valdericeda esti­mated that the full extent of the dam­age would not be known for at least another week, as freez­ing tem­per­a­tures have pre­vented most of the snow from melt­ing and made any recov­ery efforts incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult.

Aemet, Spain’s state-run mete­o­ro­log­i­cal agency, has placed the vast major­ity of the Community of Madrid and neigh­bor­ing region of Castile-La Mancha under a severe weather advi­sory due to the extremely low tem­per­a­tures.

We will have to wait and see under what con­di­tions [we find the remain­ing olives], fac­tor­ing in a con­se­quent loss of qual­ity and its influ­ence on price,” Valdericeda said.

Along with the dam­age done to unhar­vested fruits, many pro­duc­ers reported bro­ken branches and uprooted trees.

Many have lost branches due to the weight of the snow. There are many bro­ken branches,” Valdericeda said. The lit­tle that we have been able to see has been daunt­ing.”

The prospect of many trees suf­fer­ing from bro­ken branches is par­tic­u­larly wor­ry­ing to pro­duc­ers as it increases their vul­ner­a­bil­ity to pests and infec­tion.

Combined with the dam­age to asso­ci­ated build­ings and machin­ery caused by Storm Filomena, José García said pro­duc­ers are fac­ing sub­stan­tial costs far into the future.

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Recespaña Cooperative

The spe­cific prob­lems of the olive grove are not going to be exclu­sive to this year,” he said. They are going to spend two or three cam­paigns, if not more, try­ing to recover. We are talk­ing about future losses of €10 mil­lion per year until the olive groves return to their cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.”

José García added that this lat­est nat­ural dis­as­ter comes within the con­text of the peren­nial cli­matic chal­lenges olive grow­ers in cen­tral Spain have had to face over recent years.

We must not for­get that the olive grove and other crops in the region have been fac­ing very hard times either due to droughts or tor­ren­tial rains,” he said. In the end, Filomena is yet another set­back. It is absolutely nec­es­sary that the author­i­ties take the appro­pri­ate mea­sures to alle­vi­ate the con­se­quences of this new blow.”

To that end, Asaja Madrid has already requested that the local author­i­ties make an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion in order to free up funds to help with the recov­ery.

However, for many farm­ers in cen­tral Spain, the dam­age from Filomena has already been done and no real­is­tic amount of gov­ern­ment aid will be enough to make up for what has been lost.

It’s going to be cat­a­strophic,” said Félix Expósito, an olive grower and mem­ber of the Recespaña gov­ern­ing coun­cil in Villarejo de Salvanés, a town 45 kilo­me­ters south­east of Madrid. In 62 years, I’ve never known some­thing like this. The snow that has fallen on other occa­sions would end up going away in a day or a day and a half, but right now every­thing is the same as on Friday (January 8). Everything is still cov­ered and it will con­tinue like this.”

Of the 600,000 kilo­grams that we esti­mated for this cam­paign, we have barely col­lected 30,000,” he added. The eco­nomic loss is going to be very impor­tant and not only because of the oil from this cam­paign, which can no longer be sold as extra vir­gin oil, also in the future due to the dam­age to the trees.”

Plants are like peo­ple,” he con­cluded. The strongest will endure, but oth­ers who are not pre­pared will end up suf­fer­ing.”





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