Muscatel raisins drying in the Axarquía / sur

Axarquía vineyards to receive funding for feasibility projects

The pilot project has been requested by local authorities to allow growers to cover the raisins quickly in the event of bad weather

Eugenio Cabezas
EUGENIO CABEZAS

Malaga’s provincial government, the Diputación, has announced that it will pay for the purchase and installation of tarpaulins and fittings, as well as intelligent control systems, to help the Axarquía’s Muscatel raisin growers. To this end, it has transferred 5,250 euros to each of the three municipalities; Almáchar, El Borge and Moclinejo, in which this pilot project will be carried out to test the feasibility of a subsequent rollout to the other towns and villages that cultivate the crop.

President of the Diputación, Francisco Salado, has today (Monday 10 January) stressed the importance of installing automated awnings, which can be easily controlled by one person, so that growers can rely on modern machinery that allows them to cover their raisin drying racks without having to go in the early hours of the morning, when it rains, to unfold the awnings and tie them up one by one.

In Almáchar automated raisin racks will be installed on land near to the publicly owned La Mena wine press, where a complete renovation project of the building and its surroundings is soon to be undertaken and is set to include a visitor’s centre.

In El Borge the installations will be put on an agricultural estate located in the Villazo area, where there is a wine press and plans to open a visitor’s centre. Finally, in Moclinejo the system will be installed on publicly-owned land next to the village.

The Muscat of Alexandria vine is in sharp decline in the Axarquía, in favour of the more profitable sub-tropical fruits and local growers are being encouraged to replace the old vines with mango or avocado trees. However, in the area’s highest municipalities, where it is harder or impossible to grow the exotic fruits, including Cútar, Moclinejo, Almáchar, El Borge and Iznate, raisin cultivation is still going on, with some 2,000 families involved in the industry.

In April 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) declared the Axarquía Muscatel raisin as an Important System of World Agricultural Heritage (SIPAM). However, since then very little action has been taken to build on the recognition. Now though with the installation of automated awnings to protect the raisins against bad weather, as well as plans to open visitor’s centres, create raisin routes and a museum, it looks like things are moving in the right direction.

In this regard, Salado highlighted that work is also underway to create a raisin and wine trail with a circular route of 28 kilometres, which will allow visitors to enjoy a unique agricultural landscape with viewpoints being created for visitors to be able to see the vineyards. Salado also mentioned the Raisin Museum in Almáchar, which has also received Diputación funding to the tune of 765,147 euros; the refurbishment of the Axarquia raisin study centre in Moclinejo; and the drafting of the basic project for the creation of a raisin visitor’s centre in El Borge.