2020 has ended up being not just the warmest year on record in Spain (with records since 1961), as recently published by the State Meteorological Agency, but also the warmest in Europe and the world (a position it shares with 2016), according to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service. However, this fact contrasts with the meteorological situation that the country is experiencing in this second week of 2021, with record-breaking snowfall and low temperatures.
One of the areas most affected by the cold wave is the region of Castile-La Mancha. "In Albacete, temperatures have dropped as low as -16 ºC," says Luis Fernando Rubio, director of the National Association of Garlic Producers and Marketers (ANPCA) and of the Association of Onion Producers of Castile-La Mancha (PROCECAM). “This situation is making it difficult to prepare the land for the onion sowing that will be carried out between the end of February and March. The winter onions that were sown in September / October and which had been growing in November and December are going to experience a break in their cycle, although their development won't be affected. Garlic will actually suffer the biggest problems,” he says.
"We were in the middle of the purple garlic sowing campaign in Castile-La Mancha and we have been forced to stop when around 20-25% of the acreage still needs to be planted," he says. “Also, the bulbs of the plants sown in late December / early January, and which were now starting to sprout, could be affected by frost at the time when the plants are most vulnerable, which could make it necessary for some areas to be resown. But that will have to be evaluated once the cold wave has passed and an analysis of its consequences has been carried out.”
Both garlic and onion are crops that can withstand cold and frost, says Luis Fernando, since they only suffer a pause in their vegetative development, which is reactivated once the conditions are favorable again. “Thankfully, the weather forecasts say that this intense cold will end by the end of this week, and that temperatures will return to normal. As of yesterday, we reached 8 degrees Celsius in most of the growing areas. This means that the ice on the ground is going to gradually melt away and that, although the frosts are intense, something common in our area, we will be able to resume our production tasks by the end of the week.”
The weekend snowfall caused by storm Filomena and that preceded the current cold wave has made communications difficult in much of the country, particularly affecting road transport.
"The snowfall brought all logistics processes to a halt," says Luis Fernando. “In fact, we have had a lot of goods stranded on the road. We have been addressing this in whatever way possible, asking our clients for understanding, given the situation we have been experiencing,” he says. "Fortunately, shipments were resumed on Monday and only the goods that were scheduled to travel on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (the days with the most damage to the roads) have been affected."
Delays in garlic and onion shipments since the start of Brexit
In any case, the logistical delays caused by the storm have not been the only ones that shippers have had to deal with this January. “There are many delays in shipments to the UK since the new export process came into effect on January 1. I think that neither the British nor the French customs were prepared for the high volume of goods that is actually exchanged between Europe and the United Kingdom. Hopefully this problem will be solved shortly.”
The point is that, unlike the current cold wave, Brexit is not an exceptional phenomenon, and the UK is one of the main markets for Spanish onions and garlic.
“The United Kingdom is the second most important destination for Spanish onions, only behind Germany. It is a very important market with high quality requirements, which is what our onions provide. For Spanish garlic, it is the fifth largest destination in terms of volume, but the fourth in terms of turnover. For this reason, it is very important for us to maintain good commercial relations with the country,” says the head of ANPCA and PROCECAM. “It is a valuable market. It doesn't consume a large volume, but it provides a significant turnover.”