A recent study published by the European Parliament on the future of the field in the 2020s warns of the “serious danger” that exists in Spain. due to predictable abandonment of farmland over the next decade. Specifically, it shows that around 56 million hectares are at risk of abandonment, of which 5 million are estimated not to be planted in 2030. According to the agricultural organization Unión de Uniones, about 10% are at “high or very high” risk in Spain. high” abandonment, which means: a loss of approximately 2.3 million hectares; that is, an area of land about three times the size of the Community of Madrid.
This official EU report also reveals that between 2012 and 2018 the agricultural area in Spain decreased, especially in the areas of the peninsular center (Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Madrid and the Basque Country) and the Mediterranean coast (Murcia and Comunitat Valenciana). ). ). And, according to industry organizations, the severe profitability crisis of agricultural and livestock farms makes it impossible for the necessary generational change to occur, with the average producer age over 62.
There is a labor shortage, the countryside is aging, and family succession in farms is complex. Therefore, in countries such as Spain, temporary workers play an important role in the primary sector. Asaja measures around 150,000 applications from people who want to work in different annual campaigns. Some travel from their country of origin only during the harvest period. But beyond these foreign seasonal workers, immigrants are also increasingly participating in the necessary generational replacement of farms hitherto held by Spanish owners, either by buying or renting land. They take the reins.
This is the case of the marriage between Constanin and Mihaela Denes (both 37 years old), who left their native Romania to manage a farm in Ayora (Valencia). In 2008, the bursting of the real estate bubble interrupted their professional adventure in the brick business and they went to the countryside. In their view, this sector is “reviving as an employment alternative in a country where thousands of people have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. They point to a situation that has led thousands of people to seek other income alternatives, including foreigners.” They have a herd of 600 goats from their 138-hectare farm where they produce grain and they make cheese. “The former owner, now a nobility, sold the business to us because his family didn’t want to live in the countryside.” Explains Constantin and Mihaela Denes.
“Although they are still in the minority, some immigrants come, find jobs, receive training to grow and become indispensable to the farm, bring their families, and some even become owners by buying or renting their own plots years later.” from Asaja.
Generational change in the agricultural sector is becoming more and more complex across the country. The Ministry of Agriculture also warns. Spain has the lowest proportion of young farmers in the entire European Union.Highlighting the need to take ambitious action to address this situation, to reverse the current aging trend and to guarantee more and better job opportunities for rural youth, leading to significant social imbalances in rural areas.
According to Eurostat, only 3.8% of all farm managers in Spain correspond to a group of young people under the age of 35, compared to the average 23% for the European Union. There is still a long way to go and therefore young immigrants are playing an increasingly important role in Spain’s primary sector.
Nourdine Belazy (Morocco) dedicated to planting herbs in Castelló
Gabriel Utiel Blanco
Near the cradle of the Castelló tile industry, other herbaceous plants such as parsley and coriander grow in the towns of Vila-real, Nules and Cabanes, Nourdine Belazy (Outat El Haj, Fez region, Morocco, 30 years old). It also produces vegetables suitable for the development of Mediterranean crops in various areas of these locations. This young farmer already employs several temporary workers during the harvest seasons. “As an entrepreneur and self-employed, it was not easy to open a professional path in agriculture, although it was a matter of paying attention to quality and having customers”, points out Nourdine Belazy, who is also an apprentice electrician. As a member of the Unió de Llauradors, he participates in vocational training activities to improve his qualifications.
Not far from this typical Mediterranean landscape are more farms controlled by foreign patrons. The story of Daniel Marius Albu (Otelu Rosu, Romania, 1990) is the story of one of many families from Eastern European countries seeking a better future. He says his dream has come true as he owns an agricultural business after working for several years as a seasonal worker harvesting summer fruits. Before that, he was a mason and employee of a hardware store. Thinking about the first olive, tomato and olive harvest, Daniel Marius Albu explains, “I chose the countryside because I think it has a future, especially when you look at the increase in abandoned fields that no one wants to rent or buy,” explains Daniel Marius Albu. potatoes.
Are immigrants the solution to the necessary generational change in the countryside? The new business of these migrant farmers in the Mediterranean lands is being replicated in other parts of Spain. According to Cristóbal Aguado, head of AVA-Asaja, “Every year, hundreds of farmers no longer have the strength to keep up their agricultural activities, and in many cases they don’t have young takeovers behind them.” According to this rural leader, the vast majority of migrants who choose agriculture as their way of life choose to be seasonal and receive a guaranteed wage at the end of the day. But in some areas, cases of immigrants who decide to rent or even buy land are increasing, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has shifted maids to the countryside.
“It is certainly not the only solution for generational change, because even though every stone creates a wall, it is still rather a reference. And – Aguado concludes – public administrations need to prepare a roadmap for young people to become citizens or immigrants, to a good future in the countryside. may have”.