The opposite can be thought of as a result of this activity coming to the fore in the midst of a pandemic, especially when it is one of the activities that most attracted the depressed economy of the Alicante province. However, the truth is stubborn and the latest data published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) clearly reveals that agriculture is in a serious decline in this geography. And in just ten years, At least 3,934 farms and 27,343 hectares of crops were lost, figures representing declines of 18% and 17%, respectively. Crops such as fruit trees, vineyards, olive trees, vegetables and citrus are most affected by a recession, which according to agricultural organizations finds its explanation in a lack of profitability and generational change, as well as an increase in cuts and growth. the cost of something fundamental to the industry, such as irrigation water.
The latest agricultural census, corresponding to 2020, offers more than an alarming panorama for this activity in the province of Alicante. And compared to the previous one corresponding to 2009, evolution has been more than appreciable. Published data reveal the existence of 21,944 farms compared to 132,592 hectares dedicated to crops, alongside 25,878 previously existing farms; this figure contrasts with the 159,935 counted just ten years ago.
The decrease was generalized across practically all products, beyond a specific increase that would go into anecdotal realm. However All crops with the greatest weight in the province experience significant declines in terms of occupied area. Thus, fruit trees increased from 37,248 hectares to 25,152 hectares in 2009; vineyards, from 21,625 to 11,291; olive grove, from 28,971 to 22,508; vegetables, 10,154 to 6,290; and citrus, 33,111 to 30,427. There are also decreases in cereals, which fell from 9,234 hectares to 8,511 hectares; in flowers and ornamental plants from 556 to 175; and in nurseries, from 786 to 516.
To find crops experiencing slight increases in area, you would need to look for roots and tubers that increased from 573 hectares to 1,391 hectares; from 903 to 1.047 in industrial products; and from 462 to 491 in legumes.
Agricultural organizations, when citing reasons for this decline, refer to various factors that have a strong impact on activity. The first of these is endemic evil, how could it be otherwise. lack of profitability. This is expressed by José Vicente Andreu, president of Asaja Alicante, “We have long condemned the problem that farmers have now worsened, even below the cost of production, which is the result of an increase in substances such as fertilizers, treatments or energy”.
The other factor that is completely up to date at the moment is the interruptions in the Tajo-Segura transfer and increase in the cost of a purely essential resource such as irrigation water. “The decline of vegetables is the clearest evidence of the repercussions of this problem and justifies our demands. The data from the last agricultural census is devastating and they come to justify us in everything we blame”, emphasizes Andrew.
Carles Peris, general secretary of La Unió, made similar statements, saying that the administrations “failed to produce a solution to water resources For irrigation in the province. Added to the uncertainty arising from possible reductions in flows is that investments in desalination plants have had little success as they do not provide water at affordable prices. We find ourselves with a strategy that is politicized as well as not ideal”.
Peris, however, also refers to another element that bears a burden for agriculture; lack of generational change in the industry. “Low profitability underlines that when farmers retire, there are no young people to replace them”, a problem that is exacerbating above all in agriculture. small farmsare those that characterize the province and are in products such as olive groves and vineyards. “It seems that all the factors go against our agricultural model of medium and small farms,” complains the person in charge of La Unió.
And this pattern seems far from diluted, even condensed. According to data published by INE, there are now 6,317 farms smaller than one hectare, compared to 5,188 in 2009. In parallel, the larger ones, namely farms of more than 100 hectares, declined, as there were 137 at the last agricultural census, compared to 182 a decade ago.
Thus, it is the opposite pattern of other national regions, including the neighboring state of Valencia, where “large corporations and investment funds colonize fields to promote large farms,” according to Carles Peris. Alicante’s complex terrain has prevented such an operation until now.