Algarve water cuts threaten production of 95,000 tons of fruit

Water cuts in the Algarve could lead to a loss of €130 million

The planned water cuts for agriculture in Portugal’s Algarve region are threatening the production of 95,000 tons of fruit and the loss of €130 million in business by 2025, the Algarve Commission for Hydrographic Sustainability has warned.

The restrictions imposed on water consumption to save water due to the drought affecting the region could also jeopardise around 1,000 jobs in avocado and berry production alone, warned the recently-created commission, which brings together 120 producers, farmers and irrigation associations in the Algarve.

The commission, which was set up to defend its interests after the minister for the environment, Duarte Cordeiro, announced cuts of 25% for agriculture and 15% for the urban sector, including tourism, made this warning in an initial survey of the impacts that the government’s measure will have on the region’s agriculture.

“The cuts to the Algarve’s water supply announced by the government could lead to a drop in production of 88,000 tons of oranges, 6,500 tons of avocados, 850 tons of berries, around a million bottles of wine and all ornamental flower production, in the space of a year,” it said.

The commission added that the economy of these sectors could lose €134 million in 2025, in addition to the impacts that will also be felt in production in 2024, such as a 16% decrease in citrus fruit production made up of smaller fruits with less juice.

Ornamental flowers are facing “the most serious scenario”, which could be “a total collapse of the sector by 2025”.

“The measures also put around 24,000 animals at risk,” including cattle, sheep and goats, the commission said.

Warning that the “scenario presented could worsen, if it doesn’t rain, according to the government’s estimate for the coming months”, the committee maintained that the 25% cuts announced for agriculture are “a mere cosmetic operation” as it considers that there are reductions of up to 72%.

“With the new measures announced by the government, the eastern irrigation perimetre will see a cut of 72% and the western irrigation perimeters will see cuts of between 65% and 100% (Silves, Lagoa and Portimão and Bravura, respectively),” said the committee made up of the Algarve’s agricultural sector.

The same source pointed out that it is not opposed to measures aimed at saving water reserves, when there is an obvious problem that “has been going on for decades without solutions”, but considered that agriculture can no longer be given the short end of the stick when local councils waste 30 cubic hectometers in losses from supply networks.

The commission’s first analysis of the impact of water cuts on agricultural production in the Algarve came after the minister for the environment announced cuts of 25% for agriculture and 15% for the urban sector on January 17 in Faro.

Duarte Cordeiro announced the restrictions on water consumption in the Algarve after a meeting of the commission that monitors the effects of the drought and said at the time that “if nothing was done about moderating consumption, we would reach the end of the year without water for public supply” in the Algarve.

The cuts decided at the meeting of the permanent commission for the prevention, monitoring and follow-up of the effects of the drought, which lasted almost four hours and was attended by the minister for agriculture and food, Maria do Céu Antunes, were less than those initially planned for agriculture, which were estimated at 70%.

Source: LUSA