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Farming boost in Andalucía: Junta to provide 500-million-euro aid 'lifeline' to region's agricultural sector
Agriculture

Farming boost in Andalucía: Junta to provide 500-million-euro aid 'lifeline' to region's agricultural sector

The financial help package aims to modernise rural life by improving competitiveness, combatting the digital divide and revitalising the countryside profession

José Luis Piedra

Seville

Wednesday, 17 April 2024, 21:36

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The Andalusian government has given the green light to measures supporting the region's countryside by allocating 500 million euros in aid for the farming sector's professionals. The initiative was brought to the region's governing council by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development in agreement with the agricultural organisations Asaja, COAG, UPA and Agri-food Co-operatives of Andalucía at the Andalusian agricultural round table event.

With this economic support, the Junta aims to provide liquid funds and new tools for the modernisation of, and improvements to, the working countryside, encouraging a renewal of the agricultural trades and professions, reducing the digital divide and promoting greater competitiveness within its farms.

The Junta considers this aid package as "a lifeline" for farmers and livestock breeders at a difficult time, what with the ongoing drought and the negative impact that the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has had on rural Andalucía.

A large number of the actions outlined in the aid will be implemented immediately, while those included in Andalucía's Rural Development Programme (RDP) will run until 2026. One of the novelties in this support package for the sector is the launch of a specific line of aid allocating 100 million euros to facilitate the acquisition of new machinery and equipment.

These subsidies will be available to all of Andalucía's commercial farmers, but with a special focus on the olive sector, which has been particularly affected by the drought conditions experienced in the region these last five years.

Olive production, one of the most important agricultural sectors in Andalucía, is the beneficiary of another of the agreements reached at the round table. Specifically, sector leaders and the Junta have agreed to double the budget for fast-track aid already provided by the regional government funding to 40 million euros.

Credit line

The package of measures also includes a new credit line, with a two-year grace period and interest rates two points below market rates, thanks to subsidies. The aim of this particular initiative is to respond to the calls from regional farmers and livestock breeders themselves for help to refinance debt and improve their ability to meet current expenses. The amount of this line of aid will be established according to the needs of those who apply for it, possibly reaching up to 80 million euros.

Other actions include an increase of 132 million euros in agri-environmental aid, which the regional government has presented in order to "try to alleviate, albeit only partially, the effects of the CAP cuts suffered by Andalusian farmers".

Young people

There will also be a new call for applications for aid to encourage more young people to engage in agricultural work. At 130 million euros it is the largest financial aid package for this purpose in regional history.

These subsidies are further aimed at encouraging more women to join the sector, revamping rural life in general and more support for the livestock sector.

The Junta de Andalucía has assured the public that "it will focus on extensive livestock farming". It has been noted that the sector has been facing great difficulties in recent times, and the Junta has pledged to work together with the sector to draw up a strategic plan to facilitate its revival and future sustainability.

In addition to these initiatives included in the package of measures, the regional ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development will sign an agreement with the Sociedad Estatal de Infraestructuras Agrarias (Seiasa - a national, state-funded body charged with oversight of irrigation in farming) to increase public investment to help modernise irrigation systems in Andalucía. The Junta plans to allocate 36 million euros for this purpose.

More than 40 million for fishing and fishery sector

The regional government also mentioned the unanimous agreement reached with key members from Andalucía's fishing trade. Representatives from the regional ministry and the fishing, shellfish farming, fish-breeding and fish-processing trades at the round table event agreed a package of measures valued at more than 40 million euros.

Among the initiatives, it is worth highlighting the plan to open a call for applications for aid to promote generational change in the fishing sector, subsidies that will have a budget of four million euros and will include a specific line of aid for women joining the industry.

The aid will be complemented by grants for young people joining fishing fleets to provide new job opportunities in the sector. These grants will also be used, among other things, for investment in the recruitment of young people to the trade.

Another new call for aid has the dual purpose of alleviating the effects of Asian algae on the fishing sector and promoting the search for interested parties capable of carrying out impact assessments of this invasive species.

The Andalusian Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries, Food and Organic Production Research and Training (Ifapa) is already working on a project to assess how best to deal with the Asian algae that have already reached Andalucía's coastline. Ifapa also plans to promote a new strategy for modernisation of, and investment in, fishing facilities in Andalucía's ports in order to address the most pressing problems.

With regard to aquaculture (fish-farming), the regional government's commitment to promoting this activity will take the form of a strategic plan to allocate more than 25 million euros to the sector to improve production. In this way, it is planned to implement an aid package worth three million euros to help compensate for the environmental challenges posed by commercial fish-farming when close to environmentally-sensitive areas.

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