Drought obscures the future of agriculture

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The Spanish government approves measures to alleviate losses in agriculture

Castilla and León is currently the Spanish autonomous community that is most affected by drought. / Archive

Farmers are on the alert. Drought is overshadowing the future of Spanish agriculture by reducing its yields over recent years. Castilla and León is currently the autonomous community that is most affected by drought. Although there are many other affected areas in La Rioja, Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Andalucía, Murcia, Comunitat Valenciana or even in Galicia, where they are not a not used to having water problems.

Undoubtedly, the sector that is immediately suffering the consequences of water shortage is the agricultural sector. Producers foresee great losses this year in both, crops and livestock. So far, the most affected are cereals.

In this line, the National Association of Cereal and Oilseeds (Accoe), expects an average harvest decrease this year of 30%, to 13.3 million tonnes as a result of drought. An average decline of yields in cereal fields is also expected, with 2,340 kilos per hectare this year, a thousand less than last year. According to communities, the most outstanding decrease in the average production for Castilla and León is over 50% in the most significant cereals.

In the light of the events, the Spanish government approved some measures last Friday to alleviate the losses in agriculture due to drought, such as exemptions in irrigation rates for the basins of the Segura, Júcar and Duero rivers —of 53.8 million euros—, and for producers throughout the country a payment extension on social security rates has been agreed. The government has also approved a royal decree-law, the objective of which is to give financial support to producers for the losses derived from the lack of rain.

The measures adopted are based on the reduction of rates and are therefore just a temporary solution, but if the drought persists, more robust structural responses will have to be sought. In fact, the situation is likely to get worse this summer. Hence, if the shortage of rainfall continues in 2018, the situation will reach general emergency levels in most of the Spanish river basins, and this situation will not only affect agriculture.

Agrarian organizations and cooperatives agree in demanding a greater budget, more initiatives and more measures, like a reduction in electricity rates or better insurance policies.