Orange producers in the Algarve have criticised the government’s “lack of political will” to fight the threats that could destroy the region’s orange production sector.
“If something isn’t done urgently, it will be too late,” warns Bertina Alexandra, agronomy technician for the Algarve’s orange producer association AlgarOrange.
The ongoing drought is one of the most serious issues threatening the sector’s survival.
“If it doesn’t rain until the end of the year, reservoirs won’t last long and supplying water to the population will always be the priority,” Alexandra told Lusa news agency this week.
According to the association, the issue could be fixed by pumping water from the Guadiana River to the Eastern Algarve dams. It would be a project that “would not take long to complete” compared to the “five or six years it would take to build a new dam”.
There are two other major threats: the common fruit fly, which accounts for “huge losses”, as well as citrus greening, one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world, which has yet to be detected in Europe but “could spell ruin for the whole citrus production sector”.
Bertina Alexandra said georeferencing could help monitor the region’s orchards and create a common database for all.
“When a farmer detects a disease, others will know that they have to carry out a treatment,” she said.
The agronomy expert added that a “strategic plan” to fight these diseases has already been proposed to the government, which has failed to act and remains “15 years behind Spain”.
“The problem is not with DRAP-Algarve (the regional agriculture authority), whose director Pedro Valadas Monteiro has done everything he can, but there isn’t any political will from central government,” Alexandra said.
Meanwhile, the DRAP director says the national nature and forest conservation institute (ICNF) has already approved a plan to release “auxiliary insects” to fight ‘Trioza erytreae’, also known as the two-spotted citrus psyllid, responsible for transmitting citrus greening.
He also said that a €1 million project to fight the threats the sector is facing has been submitted to the Environment Fund.
Orange production is a €145 million industry in the Algarve, where around 365,000 tonnes of oranges were harvested last year.