Spain - Production lost and 20% of the trees have dried up due to the lack of water

14.05.2024 81 views

Almond production has been on the rise in Spain due to the expansion of the acreage, which reached over 761,600 hectares in 2022. A total of 247,000 tons were harvested that year and this figure will significantly increase as the new plantations, especially the irrigated ones, become fully productive in the coming years.

However, in regions like Murcia, 91% of the plantations are rain-fed, and although recent rains have helped improve the levels of stored water in some areas, in the Region, the October-April period has been "extremely dry." In fact, the Aemet considers it the driest since at least 1961, and rain-fed plantations have suffered the consequences.

"The hailstorm recorded a few weeks ago, which was very strong, damaged about 3,500 hectares of almond trees in the Region of Murcia, but the drought is causing much more damage than the hail did," says Miguel Gómez, from Almendras El Carrulo, a company based in the municipality of Bullas. "So far, we have not only lost production, but 20% of the trees, which have completely dried up due to the lack of water."

It is worth recalling that the production in the 2022/23 campaign was already hit by frosts, which caused significant declines in the harvest. "Despite this, we obtained very low prices for both conventional and organic crops. This year, the situation is not expected to improve, as the harvest is expected to be quite large."

The prices corresponding to week 17 of 2024 shared by MAPA, based on data from the markets of Reus and Albacete, reveal that all varieties have, in fact, recorded price drops. In most cases, these exceed 20% compared to the average of the last 5 years. For organic almonds, prices have dropped by up to 30%.

"We see that there is a good market for Spanish almonds, but all the large processors and marketers are working mostly with American almonds instead of Spanish ones, and these are then re-exported to Europe. The port of Valencia is actually one of the Spanish ports receiving the most containers of American almonds."

The almond market is undoubtedly dominated by the United States. In the 5 years between 2018 and 2022, the US increased its exports of both shelled and unshelled almonds by 49.7% and 26.5%, respectively, according to FAOSTAT data. In 2022, the volume shipped to various international markets, with Spain in an outstanding position, came close to 1 million tons.

Although the upward trend in the Spanish import of almonds came to a halt in 2023, the total volume had been increasing year after year up until 2022, when it reached 118,000 tons, according to Datacomex data, and 66.5% of them came from North America.

"At El Carrulo we only work with Spanish almonds from our farms in Murcia and from other regions of Spain. My partner and I have been in the almond business for 40 years and, since 2000, the volume we handle has tripled. Just like us, many producers keep growing every year as the Spanish productions increase. So I insist: it is not us, but the sector's juggernauts, who are marketing American almonds through Spain."

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