“I don’t know how we’re going to survive,” says Silves, Lagoa and Portimão Farmers Association president.
Orange producers in the Algarve, especially those in the Silves region, are desperate due to the lack of water. They warn citrus crops are at risk of disappearing, as they have been rationing water for two months.
“We appeal to all governments, entities that oversee this area, to help us because, without help, I don’t know how we will be able to survive with a plant that is irrigated and that necessarily requires water, and which is also the icon of this territory”, said the president of the Association of Farmers and Beneficiaries of Silves, Lagoa and Portimão.
João Garcia fears that the lack of water will lead to significant drops in average production in the country’s largest citrus-producing region, which could also lead to the “disappearance” of this crop in the Algarve municipality.
According to data from this association, 90% of the land in Silves, Lagoa and Portimão’s agricultural perimeter is dedicated to citrus production, and 50% of Portuguese production in this subsector is cultivated in the first of these municipalities.
“The situation is very worrying as we are in full harvest and have a problem of severe drought and a problem of lack of water in this area”, insists João Garcia.
The farmer recalls that “since 2019, there has been practically no rainfall in this territory” and that there has been “water rationing” in the last three years. “We’ve reached a point where we don’t have water. So this is the most worrying situation,” he said.
João Garcia assures that if the drought continues, “[orange] production will fall”, with all the consequences that this will have, such as rising prices and a decrease in exports.
“We are currently waiting for Saint Peter. Why? Because we have no other way of putting water in our reservoir other than through precipitation”, said the president of the Associação de Regantes e Beneficiários de Silves, Lagoa e Portimão.
The members of this association have been rationing the little water released from the region’s reservoirs, dams and aquifers for two months.
According to the National Water Resources Information System, in the Silves region, the Arade reservoir was at 14.9% of its maximum level in November, while the Odelouca reservoir was at 24% and the Funcho reservoir was at 33%.
In recent months, the importance of building the desalination plant planned for the Algarve has been increasingly discussed, as well as the possibility of transferring water from the North to the South of the country.
“We hope that all these projects will be carried out, but our biggest concern is tomorrow, and tomorrow we won’t have water […], and it’s been almost two months since our farmers haven’t had water for their orchards”, lamented João Garcia.
The citrus producer recalls that temperatures are “above normal” for the season and that rain, which could alleviate the difficulty in obtaining water, is not expected any time soon.
“Rainfall is not expected in the near future, and I don’t know what it will be like now. If Saint Peter doesn’t help us, I don’t know what the next campaign will be like. We could be on the verge of a very complicated situation”, he insisted.