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Drought does not only lower water levels in reservoirs; it also seriously damages crop harvesting

It is a perfect storm, first came the torrential rains in autumn, after the freezing conditions which affected crops and then a drought which has painted the countryside yellow since the spring – all more extreme because of climate change and the temperature of the planet is warming.

The situation is of great concern. The reservoirs are at 50.5% capacity – the lowest level for two decades. We have seen the warmest spring from half a century with 15.4º average according to Aemet – and summer is expected to be a degree higher than normal. The farmers suffer the consequences in the first person.

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Winter cereals – which develop in the spring and are harvested between May and June – have been the most prejudiced for the lack of water – as many as 550,000 hectares have been affected. The wheat production, according to the Agriculture ministry has fallen this year by 35.3%, barley by 38%, oats by 22.6% and rye by 65.3%.

‘At a national level, the harvest is down by 50% with respect to the average year and the fall is a large as 80% in some areas of Palencia south of Zamora, and farming land in Valladolid, explained José Roales, responsible for cereals from COAG, who blames the problem on three factors, the lack of water, three frosts at the end of April and higher temperatures.

‘Climate change leads to no winters for some years and seeds suffering’ the Duero valley, in fact, is the most affected by the drought: the capacity of its reservoirs at 44% is 32% lower than the average over the last decade and their Hydrological Confederation has restricted watering until October.

From COAG, however, the scant cereals will not affect the price of bread, given worldwide remaining stocks. A ton of wheat has reached a price of 177 € and barley 166 € . ‘The same prices as on May 30’ explained Roales.

Aside from cereals – the hectares of rape have fallen (down by 29.5% on this industrial harvest) many growers of maize or beet (needing water) have decided to cut down seeding, and the olive, although varies in the autumn, suffers a hydraulic stress which concerns the agrarian unions.

The association of municipalities for olive growers (AEMO in Spanish) laments the lack of groundwater, the record temperatures in June and July in Jaén and Córdoba – both provinces amount to 60% of the olive harvest – hostage to the dryness and reduced the production of olive oil by 950,000 tons to 1,150,000 tons of olive oil for the next harvest.

The minister concerned, Isabel García Tejerina, managed last week in Brussels to gain an advance payment of 70% for the PAC – above the 50% forecast – the communities permission to convert lands into grazing for livestock. The lack of pasture is worsening, because the cost of the fodder (alfalfa or vetch) has increased because of the dryness of the plants.