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"Jesús Abenza, of Alimer: "We could lose our position in Europe"

"Spain: "This year we are seeing what we already feared"

The lack of rainfall during the summer and autumn of this past 2017 have further aggravated the shortage of water for irrigation in Murcia and Alicante. These areas have traditionally suffered this problem and they are seeing things getting worse as a result of climate change. If to this we add the lack of political action in the face of extreme drought, we find ourselves in a desperate situation and with increasing uncertainty for the largest producers of lettuce, broccoli and other leafy vegetables in Spain.

"This year we are seeing what we already feared," says Jesús Abenza, commercial director of the Murcia-based cooperative Alimer. "In order to maintain their production volumes this season to be able to meet the current demand, the producers of leafy vegetables, broccoli and cauliflower from Murcia and Alicante have sought new growing areas to ensure a stable water supply. However, these are located at higher altitudes than Murcia, which entails other risks in autumn and winter, such as excessive cold, with frosts at specific times or excessive winds. As a result, the stability in the production and the strict compliance of supply programs may be jeopardised, causing prices to fluctuate more sharply."

Outside of Murcia, plantings have also been carried out in areas of Seville, La Rioja, Navarre and Tarragona, among others. "It is not a solution to the water shortages, but we don't have any other alternative if we want to maintain our business. If we found out that Seville was an ideal area for the cultivation of broccoli and lettuce, we would have already been doing it for a long time."

Spain, and especially the area of Murcia, has positioned itself in Europe in recent years as a reliable supplier. It has become highly appreciated by distribution chains due to the quality, traceability and professional service of its exporters. "All of this, which has taken so long to build, is being seriously threatened by the shortage of water resources, for which an effective solution has yet to be found," says Abenza.

"It is very difficult to build commercial business relationships with customers as we had been doing in recent years, and yet it is very easy for them to switch to other origins if there are problems with the supply," he adds. "At the moment, the situation continues to be one of absolute uncertainty. We don't know how the campaign is going to develop in the coming months."

Although in December and before Christmas there was another gap in the production of broccoli that pushed prices up, at the moment, according to Abenza, "the demand is in balance with the supply we have, bringing prices to more normal levels."

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