Producers in south eastern Spain are counting the cost of last month’s heavy rains and flooding that left hundreds of thousands of hectares under water and seriously disrupted exports at one of the busiest times of the year.
The downpours – the worst the region has experienced in a generation – left several people dead and washed away entire farms, causing major damage to infrastructure.
Citrus and leafy vegetables are among the worst hit crops, but kaki, vegetable and table grape harvests have all been severely affected.
According to Murcian exporter association Proexport, only 50 per cent of lettuce production was harvested in the run-up to Christmas, with the scarcity being felt across Europe. Suppliers in the UK told The Guardian that some retailers are turning to the US to make up the shortfall.
Proexport said that in addition to the immediate losses to lettuce, spinach and baby leaf crops, the excessive humidity would result in a higher incidence of rot and botrytis in broccoli, cauliflower and courgette production in the coming weeks, hitting export volumes and pushing prices up.
Agricultural unions in the province of Valencia said the four days of excessive rains between 16 and 19 December capped off a disastrous year for the sector. Unió de Llauradors estimates that producers racked up around €700m of losses in 2016, with the drought earlier in the year causing €250m of damage to crops and another €320m being lost during December’s downpours. A total of 140,000ha were damaged, including 76,000ha in Valencia, 39,000ha in Alicante and 32,000ha in Castellón.
Citrus is the worst affected crop in the province with losses of more than €201m, followed by vegetables (€70.4m), kaki (€21.7m), olives (€20.5m) and table grapes (€3.8m).
Proexport said the excessive humidity meant growers have been unable to proceed with the next round of planting, leading to further disruptions to supplies in the coming months.