“If something is not done urgently, it will be too late”, warned agronomist Bertina Alexandra, from AlgarOrange, the Citrus Operators Association, in a sector that according to data from the Algarve Regional Directorate for Agriculture (DRAP), in 2019 produced 356,000 tonnes, which translates to around €145 million.
For the association, the “constant threat of lack of water” is one of the biggest concerns of producers, to which are added two pests: the fruit fly, “responsible for huge losses” and “greening”, a disease that “was not yet detected in European territory”, but that “may mean the ruin of the entire citrus industry”.
Regarding the water problem, the expert warned that “if it doesn’t rain by the end of the year” the reservoirs of the dams will “last very little time” and that in case of severe shortages “people have priority”.
As a solution, the association proposes pumping water from the Guadiana to the Sotavento dams, a project that “can be done in a short time”, compared to the “five, six years” of building a dam and that “may be too little too late, taking into account the current drought situation”.
As for diseases, Bertina Alexandra considered “the georeferencing of the different citrus groves” essential, so that their location is known and that “global monitoring, as in Spain” can be done, with information “circulating freely”.
“When a farmer detects a pest, the rest know that the critical level has been reached and that they have to undergo treatment”, she exemplified.
The agronomist revealed that “a strategic plan to fight the fly and the registration of citrus groves has already been proposed”, but “there is no political will” and that work continues “with 15 years of delays compared to what has already been achieved in Spain”.
“The problem has nothing to do with DRAP-Algarve, whose regional director has done what he can, there is no political will from above,”
As for ‘greening’, Bertina Alexandra considered the release of auxiliary insects that “prevent the appearance” of insects that transmit the disease essential, but complained that “the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) did not authorise more projects”, action that “could prevent the disease from reaching the Algarve”.
Speaking to Lusa, the regional director of agriculture in the Algarve revealed that the programme for biological control against ‘Trioza erytreae’, a transmitter of ‘greening’, has already been authorised by the ICNF in four places ”where the insect has already been detected, to serve as a “buffer” for a possible advance of the disease to the Algarve.
As for the grove registration plan, Pedro Valadas Monteiro said that DRAP-Algarve “prepared an integrated plan of action” whose application, worth “one million Euros”, will be submitted to the Environmental Fund of the Ministry of Environment and Action Climate, but “there are a set of initiatives” that could progress in parallel, namely the “register and mapping of groves”.