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"The impact of climate change is most evident in the crops"

The abnormal heat is boosting the cauliflower production in La Rioja

"Abnormally high" temperatures in January and February have given a boost to the cauliflower production in the Spanish region of La Rioja. Specifically, cauliflower producers in Calahorra are facing an unusual season. The weather conditions have led to unexpected growth in the size and quantity of cauliflowers, so more time and additional effort are also required to find the necessary labor.

At El Raso Cooperative, the production has tripled in the last three weeks, with up to 2,000 boxes harvested, compared to the usual 500-600. "This is what happens when, after a couple of days of rain, daytime temperatures exceed 20 degrees Celsius," says Salvador GarcĂ­a, manager of the cooperative.

Growers are working hard to harvest the entire production, but face uncertainty about the prices they will receive for their products. "It's the same old story. An excess production is a death sentence in the markets. The central markets pay what they want, despite the Food Chain Law being in force. So far, we don't have any prices to report, because they have to sell first, but in this situation, it's clear that we'll have to be happy getting what we can, not what we want. It's a shame," says the manager of El Raso.

Fernando, a cooperative producer, is starting his day before dawn to prevent losses. The quick growth of the production can result in waste if the harvest isn't carried out on time. The unpredictable weather makes matters worse, as it can ruin months of work.

He estimates that the cauliflower volume harvested in February will be similar to that of the months of January and December combined. "The impact of climate change is most evident in the crops. We will need to shorten the production cycles to avoid harvesting in May or June, and in the case of winter ones, not to continue until April. We used to plant to harvest in September, because the prices are good, but now there's just nothing to harvest because of the heat," he says.

Climate change is also affecting the production cycles, making it essential to adjust the planting and harvesting schedules. Current prices, of around 3-3.50 euros per box, stand below the production costs, raising concerns among cauliflower growers.

The manager of the Calahorra cooperative is even more pessimistic about these data, which perfectly reflect the reality of the sector. "In the last ten years, 80 percent of cauliflower producers have retired, because most of them were over 50 years old, and I believe that in another ten years, there won't be anyone left. Right now, the cooperative only has two members under 40 years old."


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