Diego García de la Peña, a 65-year-old former bullfighter, has seen climate change affect his land near Malpartida de Plasencia in the western Spanish region of Extremadura. Photo: Sam Jones / The Observer

By Sam Jones
8 July 2017

Malpartida de Plasencia, Extremadura (The Guardian) – […] This is not a good year in Extremadura or elsewhere on the Iberian peninsula. Once again, drought has struck, devastating cereal crops, threatening the olive and grape harvest and leaving livestock short of food and water.

“This is an awful year – the worst we’ve had over the past decade – and it’s one of those that costs you a lot of money,” says García de la Peña. “There’s been no rain – and here, everything depends on the spring and autumn rains.”

His 400 cows may need to be given ready-mixed feed for eight or nine months rather than the usual five, and the water situation is another expensive headache. If the ponds run dry, García de la Peña will have to start sinking wells, around 100 metres deep, in his land. The wells cost €35 a metre to dig and then there are the solar-powered pumps to consider. All in all, he could find himself losing €30,000 (£26,347) this year as he tries to ride out the drought.

“I hope I can make it up next year. I hope I won’t go into the red, but it’s a possibility.”

Things in neighbouring, northwestern Castilla y León are worse still. The drought has ravaged the area, which is known as Spain’s granary, cutting the wheat and barley harvest by 50%.

José Roales, who grows wheat, barley, peas, sunflowers, chickpeas, lentils, and alfalfa in the region’s Zamora province, is one of many staring at an alarming balance sheet. “I’ve been harvesting 1,000kg of cereals per hectare,” the farmer says. “In a normal year I’d get 4,000kg per hectare. The thing is that the first 2,500kg goes on covering my costs. That gives you an idea of how things are this year.”

But, says Roales – who is also the cereals chief of the COAG farming association – others are suffering even more. “Given how things are in other bits of Castilla y León, I still consider myself lucky. In Palencia province, 80% of the cereals haven’t been reaped this year. It’s far, far worse.” [more]

Grapes shrivel as Spanish farmers lament a relentless drought

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