Drought is serious but could be deadly for Spanish agriculture #2

Beyond the social, economic or political issues, there is a larger problem that concerns not only the political classes of the country but the entire population: drought. Drought represents a real setback and one that seems to be difficult to solve.

In Spain, a country where agricultural land accounts for a large part of the land area, two factors have for some time now been threatening the future of agriculture, the widespread water shortages and the prolonged drought situation over time. The lack of water will irremediably affect a sector that needs water to move forward.

The Spanish countryside in figures

The utilised agricultural area in Spain (UAA) accounts for more than 23 million hectareswhich represents almost half of Spain's territory, of which approximately 17 million hectares are destined for cultivation. Of the total area under cultivation, 76% of this is rainfed and 24% is irrigated.. Herbaceous crops account for most of the surface area, followed by woody crops, with olive groves accounting for the largest cultivated area.

Looking at the economy associated with this sector, the National Statistics Institute (INE) reports that the Gross Domestic Product generated by agriculture, together with livestock, forestry and fishing, fell between October and December 2022 by 2.6%, compared to the same period in 2021 and rose by 4.3% compared to the third quarter.

Water scarcity a challenge for agriculture

For agriculture to thrive, water is undoubtedly needed.. Globally, 72% of all freshwater withdrawals are destined for the agricultural sector.12% for industry and energy production and 16% for human consumption. In Spain, 82.1% of water goes to agriculture 12.81 TPST3T goes to households and 5.11 TPST3T to other economic activities.

These figures are undoubtedly clear proof of the challenge facing our country in a situation of water scarcity. What is certain is that in a state of drought, agricultural production will be affected, with lower yields, lower harvests, poorer quality, smaller fruit or loss of harvests already sown.

The current situation offers us a discouraging panorama, with a severely affected sector with a production that is lost. The Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos (COAG) has recently produced a detailed report on how the water shortage is making itself felt in the different communities. The report concludes that at least one 60% in the Spanish countryside is severely affected The situation, which, far from improving, is getting worse and worse, is becoming more and more serious. Far from improving, the situation is getting worse all the time.

Rainfed crops hit hard by the current situation

The Spanish countryside is full of irrigated crops, which are supplied with water by irrigation methods and therefore depend on the limitations of the river basins, but there are also rainfed crops whose water comes only from rainfall and which, as a result of the current meteorological situation, are severely affected.

76% of Spanish fields are severely affected by the lack of rainfall.. This affects soils and rainfed crops that depend on it for their development. This is the case of wheat, sunflower, vines or woody crops such as olive and almond trees, which will inevitably reduce their production with the consequent economic impact. Nevertheless, olive groves, vineyards and cereals account for more than 50% of the cultivated area in Spain.

The agricultural situation by community

The study carried out by the Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos offers a not very encouraging scenario for the farmers of Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha and Murciaand also for the drier areas of Aragon, Castile and Leon and Catalonia.

In the Andalusian capital, farmers are going through a situation that has been going on for too long, as they have been suffering from water restrictions for three years now. Andalusia is one of the regions most affected by water shortages. Several regions of Cádiz and Jaén are in a situation of exceptional drought and are suffering from water shortages. the Guadalquivir basin is at 25% of its total capacity.

But the situation is generalised for the whole of Spain, and communities such as Navarra and La Rioja are already having problems with water. In this regard, the reservoirs of Navarre are at 60% when they should be at 85%.

Aid for agriculture to alleviate the situation

In view of the situation of the Spanish countryside, the Council of Ministers has recently approved a royal decree-law which includes a powerful package of urgent measures to support the agricultural sector in order to enable it to cope with the drought situation.

This direct State aid includes more than EUR 636 million for the agriculture, livestock and beekeeping sectorsThe Commission will also provide a subsidy of up to 70% of the cost of insurance policies for drought insurance of the crops most affected by the lack of rainfall and high temperatures.