Concern reigns within the Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Catalonia (FCAC) for falling prices in the almond market, after the release of the estimated harvest of this dried fruit in California and the good forecasts of the harvest in Catalonia, which is estimated to grow by around 12%. In the market of Reus, the main in the State in terms of this dried fruit, the price of almonds fell from 5.30 euros per kilo of grain last January, to 3.40 euros per kilo the second week of June. The collapse will have a serious impact on dryland cultivation, which occupies most of the surface of Catalonia.
To deal with this situation and ensure the viability of rainfed farms, the FCAC has called on the Ministry of Agriculture to recover the maintenance of the current associated aid, the establishment of eco-schemes that favor certain production systems and the implementation underway a conversion plan for traditional rainfed plantations, as the only avenues to ensure crop viability.
Roger Palau, responsible for nuts of the FCAC and also of the group of cooperatives of nuts of the Spanish State, stands out that “the crop of the almond occupies a productive surface of more than 450.000 hectares in the State, of the of which 86% are dryland, with significantly lower yields than irrigated. This makes it difficult for them to survive in a context of maximum and growing competitiveness, which leads to low income and low profitability. We believe that the dry almond tree must be protected both for the environmental role of this crop and for the positive impact on the economic and social aspects of the rural development of the producing regions. “
At the same time, a large producer such as the United States expects a spectacular harvest for this year. Almond Board forecasts that imports of American almonds into the European Union will increase by 17.6% compared to 2019 due to record production in California, which is projected at 1,361,000 tons of almonds.
The situation of the sector is aggravated by the closure suffered by the Horeca channel as a result of the covid-19 and the practical disappearance of exports, facts to which is added the significant drop in prices of almonds in recent months in the different boxes of the State. “But none of this justifies such a significant drop in prices, not even thinking that there may be some stock from last year or that this year we will have a good harvest,” says Palau.
According to FCAC forecasts, the almond harvest will grow by 12% in Catalonia, due to the entry into production of new almond plantations under irrigation, “which may endanger dryland cultivation”. This increase would place global production at 6,737 tons of grain, compared to 6,025 tons of grain in the previous season.
There are 29,377 productive hectares of almonds in Catalonia, 78.1% of which are dry land. For the first year, however, production from irrigation is the majority and accounts for 58% of the total. “The consolidation of irrigation can endanger the continuity of dry land, guarantors of territorial balance in areas where no other crop is viable. Besides, to this adds that the current situation of the market is not at all favorable for this crop ”, explains Palau.
We are experiencing a strong agronomic revolution in the world of almonds, with the introduction of new varieties and more productive cultivation systems, but the almond sector continues to suffer: “We are crackers producing, but a disaster selling.”
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