From what members of the APT – Associação dos Agricultores e Pastores do Norte tell him, the drought “is not yet an alarming situation” in the North of the country, director João Morais told Lusa.
The agricultural engineer explains that the region suffers from “a meteorological drought, not a hydrological drought, as there is in the South”, and this happens “because there is still water in the soil”.
For the director-general of the Association of Young Farmers of Portugal (AJAP), Firmino Cordeiro, “it is almost impressive that we are talking about a drought in mid-January”.
“What is happening is that, in addition to this Covid-19 thing, which has afflicted our lives, we have to deal with an even more complicated thing, which is climate change”, he said.
This official explained that, despite the fact that the North is more rainy than the rest of the mainland, the region has, “on the one hand, the area between Douro and Minho”, which “must be one the areas of the country where there is more rain, more humidity”.
“On the other hand, we have Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, the so-called 'hot land of Trás-os-Montes', which are areas of the country where it rains the least, even less than some areas of the deep Alentejo”, he said.
“To arrive in mid-January with little water accumulated in the soil is terrible. It is terrible for the crops that are traditionally grown in this more coastal region, such as green wine, silage corn, white corn, other fruit trees, kiwi, lemon trees, outdoor horticulture, almost without irrigation, in the Póvoa de Varzim area and others areas”, he explained.
When the water in the soil starts to run low, it is necessary to start watering and “watering is a problem, because it is removed from wells and holes, which, when it does not rain, have a much more delicate replacement capacity”.
In the region of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, rain fed crops, such as “traditional olive groves, almond groves, vineyards in the Douro region” live in “very weak soils, based on schist, with little organic matter and with soils with little water holding capacity”.
“In these areas, when it rains regularly in winter and spring, water is retained in those layers. If the water disappears, it decimates this year's crop and makes it difficult for the next year's crop”, explains the AJAP director.
Even with a drought in the winter months, “trees are fantastic plants that can recover when what they lack arrives, as long as it's not too late”.
That is why Firmino Cordeiro defends that, “until the end of February, a good week or two of rain could solve many of the shortcomings at this moment”.
João Morais also considers that the problem “can be solved”, if there is rain in February.
The APT leader says that farmers and also cattle, goat and sheep herders “still have reserves” and that, “at the outset, the situation is still under control, but if we don’t have rain in the next few months, it will be quite alarming".
“Let's pray to the saints, for those who believe, and those who don't, to do better for this country and for the world, because this is the problem of the century and people are still looking away”, he concluded.