PROVINCIA DE ALICANTE – A growing problem is plaguing Spain as the largest producer of almonds. The culprit is the Xylella fastidiosa, a pathogenic bacteria, which affects not only almond trees but also vine and olive trees.
In an attempt to eradicate this harmful bacteria, all affected trees and those within a radius of 100 metres are being cut down and destroyed in Alicante. As a result, according to Información sources, 2,802 hectares with 200,200 trees have been destroyed to combat the plague. This action resulted in losing no less than 800 tons of almonds. This represents almost 25% of the total harvest of the province of Alicante.
Almond plantations reduced
This eradication strategy, supported by the European Union, has already cost the sector more than €3 million. In addition, Xylella fastidiosa has further reduced almond plantations in Alicante. In the past 20 years these had already halved, mainly due to declining profitability.
Today there are only two regions in Alicante, Vinalopó and Vega Baja, where almond cultivation is still significant. However, the current problem with the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria could further reduce the production of this nut in future seasons.
The bacteria was first detected in Alicante in June 2017. Since then, the plague has spread, despite the efforts of the Agricultural Council of the Valencian Community, which has followed the eradication plan prescribed by the EU. The spread of the bacteria in the Alicante region has slowed recently. However, the area directly affected has increased by 6.4% to 3,220 hectares.
Despite this setback for almond cultivation in Alicante, there is also positive news. The Mesa Nacional de Frutos Secos estimates almond production at 120,633 tons for the 2023 season, after the previous season’s record drop due to bad weather in the production areas. The estimate for this campaign is 49% above the average of the last three years, in which a new calculation method has been applied.
Larger area than last year
According to Cooperativas Agro-Alimentarias de España, the productive area this year is 538,353 hectares. That is an increase of 3.1% compared to last year. This increase is due to the production of more than 16,000 hectares of mainly irrigated land in Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Andalucia regions. These have partly offset the negative impact of the current bad weather conditions and the long period of drought in the main production areas.
The area of organic almond production exceeds 100,000 hectares and represents almost 20% of the total area.