Heat and drought in Spain: also less water for agriculture and horticulture

Spain is facing an alarming situation due to persistently high temperatures and an increasingly severe drought. This affects not only the population but also Spanish agriculture. 

The drought is not only caused by the lack of rain, but also by an increasing extraction of soil water for agricultural purposes, both in the north and in the south of the country. 

The shortage of water is a growing nightmare, especially for regions such as Catalonia and Andalusia. More than 600 villages, with a total population of more than 8.7 million, face water restrictions: the water supply is completely cut off at night to replenish the reservoirs for daily use. 

According to the Spanish Ministry of the Environment, about three-quarters of Spain's territory is at risk of falling prey to desertification.

The combination of successive droughts and rising temperatures has led to an increase in water use for water-intensive crops, coupled with an increased number of mega-houses in the pig industry. This has considerably increased the water requirement, while the availability of water has decreased sharply.

There has also been a continuous migration of the population from the countryside to the cities for several years. As a result, less and less staff is available, and more and more orchards and plantations are being 'left behind'.

This also affects orange cultivation, once one of Spain's most important export products. The December 2022 orange harvest was the smallest in twenty years. Today, half of the orange production comes from the Valencia region and 45% from Andalusia. Since the beginning of this year, Spain has lost its leading position as an exporter of oranges and citrus fruits to Egypt. 

This pattern can also be seen with Spanish avocado traders. Despite only harvesting for 4 months domestically, they are now active as distributors and exporters all year round, thanks to avocado imports. These avocados are partly used for the local market and partly re-exported.