Rise of tropical crops as alternative to citrus in the fields of Castellon

In the warm areas and in the foothills of the mountains of the Spanish province of Castellon, where citrus monoculture prevails, the cultivation of other kinds of fruit trees is starting to emerge. For example, in the municipality of Benicàssim, near the Desert de les Palmes, there are already mango, pomegranate and avocado orchards. Also in Moncofa, Xilxes, Betxí, Artana or la Vall d'Uixó are there more and more areas that are no longer devoted to citrus farming.

For now, avocados have the best chances in the province as a viable alternative to citrus cultivation, although the growers' association La Unió de Llauradors is calling for caution. "There are good prospects and the market may grow, but it will not be easy to consolidate it. It is a crop with high water consumption, which entails increasing the irrigation flow, and although it seemed that there were no pest issues, it also suffers from them," said secretary general Carles Peris.

Along the same lines, José Vicente Guinot, of Fepac-Asaja, said that "the high returns that are achieved have attracted people. But you have to be cautious, since you need to do it in the right area and it requires a high investment."

In addition to avocados, mangoes are also just starting to be planted. These are crops that have already become established in southern Spain, especially in Malaga.

La Unió and the Fepac are not as optimistic when it comes to pomegranate cultivation (a fruit used mainly in juice production), despite the existence of plantations in the province, some of them quite large.

"The commercial output appears to be limited, also due to calibers being too large," says Peris. Guinot explains that this crop had a boom between 2013 and 2014, with very good prices, but that ever since, the development hasn't been good.

In any case, regardless of the fact that an alternative crop could consolidate and contribute to reducing the citrus monoculture, La Unió believes that, at least for now, the safest bet is to give a boost to other orange varieties.



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