Avocado overlords face prosecution for stripping protected land in West Algarve

Avocado overlords who have been relentlessly stripping hectares of land northwest of Lagos for a massive new monoculture face prosecution for flouting several embargoes.

A report compiled by the CCDR (commission for regional coordination and development) confirms that the authority’s legal services department is considering whether it has a case for a “serious” crime of disobedience.

On the receiving end is Frutineves – the Silves-based agricultural business – that planned a 46,000-tree monoculture on land around Matos Brancos and Ferrel, and has been encroaching on REN (ecological reserve) in the process.

This has been a hotly contended project from the start, with locals aghast at the fact that they have suddenly found themselves surrounded by water-guzzling monocultures (click here).

A stone’s throw from Frutineves’ land is what was billed as the largest avocado plantation in Europe. This too has been purportedly planning expansion south.

Homeowners desperate to ‘protect the future’ have been supplying authorities with photographs of diggers at work in protected areas – the latest of which, until Monday, was dated August 14.

Back in July, Frutineves’ representative Rui Fernandes assured CCDR bosses that he would order the suspension of works on REN land “immediately”.

The report explains Fernandes attended a meeting at which he said he had no previous evidence of any irregularities.

On Sunday – seven weeks since his pledge to stop works – Mr Fernandes told us “work stopped two or three days ago” when Frutineves received official notification that the CCDR was taking action.

But today (Monday) this appears to be far from the case.

As a result vast areas of land that could have been saved have been scraped dry, their habitats indelibly destroyed.

This is what exasperates locals who say they cannot understand how diggers are able to keep going.

Rui Fernandes stressed on Sunday “this is it. We’re not going to plant any more. We’ve come to the end of this. What we have planted so far is as far as we are going…”

The issue remains however that while possibly two-thirds of the project has been planted (ie up to around 30,000 trees), the remaining countryside now resembles ‘the surface of the moon’.

“It has been completely destroyed. Nothing lives there”, say members of the groups fighting this project: Terra Saudável and Lagos Com Futuro.

Neither believe this is an end to the story.

Rui Fernandes agreed that Frutineves boss Luís Neves may still want a return from the purported €6 million investment he made in securing all the parcels of land now in his possession, as “that’s business”.

Meantime, authorities are being sent video evidence of the work continuing on the land.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com