Water levels in the reservoirs are down to 20 per cent in some areas. / SUR

Farmers fear drought after lack of autumn rain in the south of Spain

The lack of rainfall and the low water reserves of the reservoirs worry crop and livestock farmers alike

Eugenio Cabezas
EUGENIO CABEZAS

"Worrying, alarming, critical" are just some of the terms used by the main agricultural organisations in Malaga province when they are asked to define with one word what the sector is experiencing due to the lack of rain.

"If it does not start to rain in November and December we are going to have a really bad time," says the president of the Association of Young Farmers in Malaga (Asaja), Baldomero Bellido.

"We had a very short spring, in summer nothing fell, as usual, and then in September what happened was we had hail storm that damaged olive groves in the Antequera area," he adds.

Although the crops most at risk are irrigated crops, due to the loss of water from the wells and the low reserves of reservoirs such as La Viñuela, from which producers of mangoes and avocados are supplied, the lack of rainfall is also causing problems for rain-fed crops, such as olive groves, cereals, vines and almonds.

"The olives are wilting"

The forecast harvest of olives estimated at 60,000 tonnes in Malaga and 1,050,000 across Andalucía, “will have to be reduced it because the olives are wilting”, says Francisco Moscoso, secretary of the Union of Small Farmers (UPA) in Malaga.

Cereal growers are also waiting for rain to start planting. "To be able to sow wheat or barley it is necessary for some water to fall from the sky", points out Baldomero Bellido, who also warns that the aquifers "are suffering a lot".

"The goats have almost nothing to eat"

The drought also threatens livestock, due to the lack of pasture. "Everything is dry, the goats have almost nothing to eat," says the provincial secretary of the COAG, Antonio Rodríguez, who is in charge of a Malaga goat farm in Sedella.

To make matters worse, as if it were a perfect storm, this scenario of lack of rain and shortage of reserves in the reservoirs, which has led the Junta cutting the allocation of irrigation water for farmers who depend on the La Viñuela dam, which is barely at 20 per cent of its capacity, is the increase in production costs, which is causing "ruin for many farmers and stockmen."

Price increases

"With the increase in the prices of electricity, diesel, feed and fertilizers, it is getting more difficult every day to balance the numbers and make a living from it", says Moscoso. "In Malaga there were 50 dairy farms and there are only 15 left", he adds.

Although it is still too early to know, agricultural organisations predict that, if there is no "significant" rainfall between now and the end of the year, the agricultural balance of 2021 "may be negative" compared to 2020, when 682.29 million were reached, 6.9 per cent less than in 2019.