The producer organization of the Bajo Almanzora area in the Levante Almeriense, SAT Tomasol, has decided not to produce tomatoes this season due to various factors that have caused prices to fall, such as the increase in production costs, mainly from water, and the pressure from Moroccan competition.
At the same time, Tomasol has been expanding its cauliflower in recent years, reaching up to 120 hectares. This is a crop that has always been present in the Levante region, and whose plantations have spread to the areas of Venta Quemada in Granada, el Saltador de Huércal-Overa and La Ballabona de Antas. The season lasts from October to April.
Cauliflower has the advantage of requiring greater specialization and doesn't face as much competition as tomatoes. For their cultivation, Palomares producers have access to water from the desalination plant of the Community of Irrigators of Cuevas del Almanzora, which was funded with money from the irrigators themselves several decades ago. Besides Tomasol, the largest traders in Palomares are Agrícola Navarro, which is also Tomasol's main shareholder, and which also sells broccoli, watermelon and other fruit and vegetable varieties, and Candil, which also cultivates Iceberg lettuce and broccoli.
The mesh greenhouses that were left empty when it was decided not to grow tomatoes are being used by Tomasol for the growing of peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and peas, which are mostly exported.
Soler estimates that the acreage devoted to tomatoes in Almeria and Murcia has been reduced by 10,000 hectares.
The main problems for the growers in the area are the high water consumption of green leafy crops, with a cost of 3.000 Euro per hectare, and the competition from areas which didn't use to have watermelons, like Águilas and Mazarrón. Broccoli has also grown in the region thanks to Murcian companies such as Tomás Jara and Escarola de Quadraspania.