Image: Nuno Veiga/ Lusa

Farmers rip into government’s empty words

Ministerial statements on drought continue to irritate sectors

Following the controversy prompted by environment minister Duarte Cordeiro’s statements on Portugal’s dire state of drought, farmers have ripped into what they call the empty and absurd comments delivered by agriculture minister Maria do Céu.

Ms do Céu – a minister who has already faced criticism for not seeming to know that she is in charge of agriculture – issued an official dispatch on Monday recognising that Portugal is suffering severe and extreme drought.

The Confederation of Portuguese farmers (CAP) instantly accused her (and therefore the government) of “playing with agricultural producers”.

CAP’s president Eduardo de Oliveira e Sousa said the dispatch “did not dispatch anything; did not say anything”. It was simply a statement of a reality the country has been aware of for the last six months.

“It mentions ‘an evidence’ (of drought). This is absolutely absurd”, he told Rádio Renascença.

Back in February, he explained, CAP presented the government (and the minister) with “more than 40 measures” that could be adopted to face the situation but “the agriculture ministry did not follow practically any of them. Solutions which could be implemented, have not been. (The government) has not presented them, has not financed them and doesn’t take decisions”, he continued.

This is the same agriculture ministry that will ultimately come under fire for sanctioning huge swathes of water-guzzling intensive agricultural explorations in the south of the country, which is the driest region of Portugal and likely to remain that way for months, if not forever.

To give the agriculture ministry some credit, Monday’s dispatch did highlight the percentage of mainland Portugal classified as in severe drought: in May (ie by now the situation will almost certainly be worse), 97.1% of national territory was classified as in severe drought, with 1.4% in extreme drought.

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