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Spain: Production moves from Seville to Cadiz

14/07/2022 - Sophie Colvine - 2021 Season
In Andalusia, the inability to plant in the Lower Guadalquivir due to lack of water means that many farmers are moving to the province of Cádiz, where irrigation is not a problem, with a larger reduction in total production.

Processing tomato is a traditional crop in the Lower Guadalquivir, due to the strong presence in municipalities such as Lebrija, Las Cabezas de San Juan, Utrera and Los Palacios, which concentrated most of the production that began to be harvested in the first week of July. However, the lack of water for irrigation has meant that tomatoes were not planted this year in the region, except for a few very specific cases of farmers with their own wells. Instead, many of those without access to water have chosen to move to another province, particularly to Cadiz, where irrigation is guaranteed to carry out industrial tomato cultivation.

This is the c
ase of Antonio Ferreira, a farmer from Lebrija, where he cultivated some 70 hectares of tomatoes and who has been renting land in Jerez for several campaigns. “We have had water problems in the Guadalquivir basin since 2018, so I chose to move the crop to another province where irrigation was guaranteed, which I am particularly happy about this year,” he explains. Antonio cultivates 107 hectares of tomatoes for processing in an area belonging to the Guadalcacín Irrigation Community, and points out that "the location of this campaign has been particularly complicated, since prices have doubled due to the enormous demand from farmers at the looking for land to grow tomatoes, not being able to plant in the Lower Guadalquivir". The growth of the tomato in the irrigation community of Guadalcacín has been "exponential" in the last three campaigns, according to the technical director, Juan Carlos Cabral, who points out that this industrial crop already occupies "about 350 hectares in our region" where it coexists with other crops that are also very demanding of water, such as corn, cotton and some vegetables. This community, which depends on the Guadalcacín reservoir, has a concession of 5,033 cubic meters per hectare, so "there are enough resources to carry out the cultivation with good management", explains the technical director.

This situation has also forced the tomato processing industries to contract their production mainly in Cádiz, from Villamartín to Jerez de la Frontera, abandoning the traditional cultivation areas of Seville. However, given the low production this season, some companies will not even open their doors, and those that do will be working at half capacity.

The cooperative Las Marismas de Lebrija, one of the most flourishing tomato paste industries, will remain closed, with the loss of jobs and wealth for the region. And it is that, when the weather permits, the cooperative produces an average of 264,000 tonnes of fresh tomatoes and 55,000 tonnes of concentrate, which are exported to the five continents. For its part, the Conesa group, the largest national tomato processing group which has two processing plants in the province of Seville, one in the municipality of Los Palacios and another in Utrera, has chosen not to open the plant in Utrera, while of the three lines at the Los Palacios plant, only one will operate. Whereas in a normal year the group processes about 400,000 tonnes of tomato paste, this year "we will only make about 100,000 tonnes", says the manager of Conesa in Andalusia, Manuel Diana. This means that "out of approximately 300 direct employees in the factory, we will remain with only 70 employees". In the same situation is Tomates del Sur (Sugal Spain), with a factory in Las Cabezas de San Juan, where "if the usual objective is to transform the production of 2,800 hectares, this year we are at 50%", explains the manager, Salvador Flores. Thus, if in a normal campaign "we start in the first days of July and end mid-September, with the factory at full capacity to process some 300,000 tonnes of fresh tomatoes, this year we will open at the end of the month and we will only process some 150,000 tonnes”.

The situation in the tomato processing sector is daunting. While in a normal year, the production of 9,000 hectares is processed at an industrial level, which represents approximately one million tonnes of tomatoes, worth 150 million euros,this year the production will be reduced to an estimated
276,000 tonnes of tomatoese from 2,300 hectares, for a value of 37 million euros. This means that the impact in Andalusia, mainly in the Sevillian region of Lower Guadalquivir, is more than 110 million euros.

Source: Sevilla ABC
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