Algarve orange growers desperate due to lack of water ask for help to save production

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The Algarve’s orange growers, especially those in the Silves region, are desperate because of the lack of water and are warning of the risk of the citrus crop disappearing, having been rationing water for two months.

“We’re appealing to all those in government, the entities that oversee this area, to help us, because without help I don’t know how we’re going to be able to survive with a plant that is irrigated and that necessarily needs water and that is also the ex-libris of this territory,” the president of the Association of Irrigators and Beneficiaries of Silves, Lagoa and Portimão told Lusa.

João Garcia fears that the lack of water will lead to a significant drop in normal production in the country’s largest citrus-growing region, a situation that could also lead to the “disappearance” of this crop in the Algarve municipality.

According to data from this association, the agricultural perimeter of Silves, Lagoa and Portimão has 90% of its agricultural land dedicated to citrus production and 50% of Portuguese production in this subsector is grown in the first of these municipalities.

“The situation is very worrying. It’s worrying in that we’re in the middle of the harvest, so we’re now at orange harvest time, and we have a severe drought problem and a water shortage problem in this area,” insists João Garcia.

The farmer recalls that “there has been practically no rainfall in this area since 2019” and that in the last three years there has been “water rationing”.

“It’s just that we’ve reached the point where we don’t have any water. So this is the most worrying situation,” he said.

João Garcia assures us that if the drought continues as it seems it will, “production [of oranges] will fall”, with all the consequences that this will have, such as a rise in prices and a drop in exports.

“We’re currently waiting for Saint Peter. Why? Because we have no other way of getting water into our reservoir other than precipitation,” said the president of the Silves Irrigation and Beneficiaries Association.

The members of this association have been rationing the little water released by the region’s reservoirs, dams and aquifers for two months.

According to the National Water Resources Information System, in the Silves region, the Arade reservoir was at 14.9% of its maximum level in November, while the Odelouca reservoir was at 24% and the Funcho reservoir at 33%.

In recent months there has been more and more talk about the importance of building the desalination plant planned for the Algarve, as well as the possibility of transferring water from the north to the south of the country.

“We hope that all these projects will be carried out, but our big concern is tomorrow, and tomorrow we won’t have any water […] and for almost two months now our farmers haven’t had any to water their orchards,” João Garcia lamented.

The citrus grower recalls that temperatures are “above normal” for the season and that rain is not expected to arrive, which could ease the difficulty in obtaining water.

“Rainfall isn’t expected in the near future and I don’t know how it’s going to be now, if St. Peter doesn’t help us, I don’t know how the next campaign is going to be. We could be on the verge of a very complicated situation,” he insisted.

Iris Lavan
Iris Lavan
With a background as a consultant in the medical industry, Iris Lavan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to Portugal Pulse. Iris also runs a company in Tel Aviv offering marketing, business development, content creation and public relations services. She holds a degree in economics and management, giving her a solid grounding in business strategy and financial planning. Iris' commitment to Portugal Pulse is reflected not only in her consulting career, but also in her impact on the Portugale media landscape in Israel. She was an interviewer for Hadshot Portugal חדשות פורטוגל, a media outlet that broadcasts news about Portugal in Hebrew, where she provided valuable information on current affairs, healthcare and the economy. Since July 2023, Iris has also been part of the Portugal Pulse team.

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