"The drought situation is damaging crops and pastures and it is really worrying", José da Luz Pereira, president of the association, told Lusa news agency.

The so-called Campo Branco covers the municipalities of Castro Verde and Almodôvar and part of the municipalities of Aljustrel, Mértola and Ourique, all in the district of Beja.

In this region of Alentejo, there is a predominance of dryland cereal production and extensive livestock farming. The lack of rain has been exacerbating problems long felt among farmers.

"With the dry weather and wind, the situation has been getting worse, because there's no humidity and nothing favours the development of plants, quite the contrary," explained the president of the Farmers' Association of Campo Branco (AACB).

A situation that puts the production of autumn/winter cereals "at stake", but also future pastures for cattle feed, he acknowledged.

"Since September [2021], animals have been fed 'by hand', that is, eating concentrates, rations, hay, silage or straw, which normally only happened from this time onwards," said José da Luz Pereira.

The situation is even more serious because "rations are rising in price every day, and straw and hay are practically sold out on farms", he added.

All of this led the AACB president to acknowledge that the future "is a total unknown", admitting that farmers in this region could "run the risk" of having a "zero production" year in 2022.

Faced with this possible scenario, José da Luz Pereira called for "measures to be taken" for a situation "that is occurring in the dryland areas of the Alentejo, but also in the Beiras and so forth".

"It is the future of our agriculture that is at stake," he warned.

More than half of mainland Portugal (57.7 percent) was in a situation of weak drought at the end of December, with a slight decrease in the severe drought class and an increase in moderate drought, according to data from the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA).

According to the IPMA's meteorological drought index (PDSI), at the end of December, more than half the territory (57.7 percent) was in weak drought, 27.3 percent in moderate drought, 8.7 percent in severe drought and 6.3 percent normal.

The data also indicates that mainland Portugal remained, at the end of December, in a situation of meteorological drought in almost the entire territory. Meteorological drought is directly linked to precipitation deficit, when precipitation occurs below what is normal.