Rice production in the Sado valley. Image: Nuno Veiga/ Lusa
Rice production in the Sado valley. Image: Nuno Veiga/ Lusa

Alentejo rice harvest should be larger this year despite drought – growers

Water should not be channelled towards intensive almond/ avocado crops 

The lack of water in the dams and reservoirs is a serious problem for rice producers in the districts of Alcácer do Sal and Santiago do Cacém, but despite this, this year’s production should be higher than last year, writes Lusa.

“Last year’s production was terrible because the summer of 2022 was very irregular, with very uneven temperatures. This year we have better expectations”, João Reis Mendes, from the Sado Valley Rice Producers Group (Aparroz), told the State news agency, guaranteeing that prices should “remain the same or rise slightly”.

Aparroz, the largest organisation of rice producers in the Sado Valley, represents a large part of the 250 or so rice farmers in the areas of Alcácer do Sal and Santiago do Cacém (Setúbal district).

According to Mendes, “although this year there was no shortage of water for rice production in Alcácer do Sal, the Pego do Altar and Vale de Gaio dams are at very low levels, which could affect next year’s production if it doesn’t rain enough in the coming months”.

“Every four years, every five years, we have a drop in the area cultivated in Alcácer. There has to be an allocation because there isn’t enough water in the dams,” he said, defending the need to find “solutions to solve the problem of the lack of water in the medium and long term”.

“There has to be planning and not emergency measures. If there is no planning, we are constantly using emergency measures to ‘put out fires’. And that’s not what we want,” 

Far worse than the situation of Alcácer’s dams is the reality at the Campilhas dam in Santiago do Cacém, where some rice producers had to stop growing three or four years ago due to the lack of water.

According to José Pereira, from the Setúbal district farmers’ association (AADS), which represents farmers from the Carvalhal (Grândola) and Comporta (Alcácer do Sal) areas, “the Campilhas dam could be replenished from the Alqueva dam, but the price of water charged by EDIA, the Alqueva Development and Infrastructure Company, is unaffordable for rice producers”.

He therefore warns of the need for measures to help the region’s rice producers and argues that financial support should not all be channelled to other crops.

We don’t want olive and almond groves to continue to grow, which means a lot of water consumption, because before it was just olive trees, but now it’s also almonds and avocados. And we don’t want the money to just go there,” he emphasised, reiterating the need to find solutions that guarantee the availability of water at affordable prices.

Source: LUSA