person's hands holding soil

Cereal harvests ‘worst ever’ because of drought

Baixo Alentejo farmers faced with crippling losses 

Cereal production in Baixo Alentejo has had one of the “worst years ever” due to the drought with falls reaching 90% in some cases,  the presidents of two farmers’ associations said today.

Speaking to Lusa news agency, the president of the Agricultural Cooperative of Beja and Brinches (CABB), Fernando Rosário, classified 2023 as “a bad year” for the production of rainfed cereals in its area of influence, which mainly covers the municipalities of Beja and Serpa.

“It was a year that started with some precipitation, and people started spending money, thinking it was going to be a normal year. But, from the end of December until May, we haven’t had a drop of water “, he said.

This reality has meant that the production of rainfed cereals in the region – namely wheat, barley, oats and triticale – fell by “more than half compared to a normal year”.

“There are many farms where productivity did not reach 1,000 kilos per hectare”, and it may not be possible to reach 10 million kilos of cereal production in the CABB area, Rosário added, making 2023 “one of the worst years” for cereal production in the Baixo Alentejo in living memory.

Further south, in the Campo Branco area – which covers the Alentejo municipalities of Castro Verde, Almodôvar and Ourique and part of the municipalities of Aljustrel and Mértola – the situation is identical.

“It must have been one of the worst years ever” for the production of wheat, barley and oats, António Aires, president of the Campo Branco Farmers’ Association (AACB), based in Castro Verde, admitted

Also in this region, the year “started very well”, with rain in January, which led farmers to make “a higher investment compared to previous years”.

“But, by springtime, water was lacking and, perhaps, this was one of the worst years ever”, with losses “in the order of 90%”.

Aires added that there there have even been farmers “who did not even harvest” because the cost would have been higher than that of cereal brought in, “since they only had 200 or 300 kilos per hectare”.

Equally, “there were farms that produced 700 or 800 kilos (per hectare) when they used to produce 3,000 or 4,000.” 

All this in a year when globally cereal supplies have been compromised by the war in Ukraine, and nationally livestock producers are being forced to sell their animals as they cannot afford to feed them…

Source: LUSA