Spain: Almeria wants to double the greenhouse acreage devoted to organic crops

The province of Almeria currently has more than 2,600 hectares of greenhouse acreage devoted to organic cultivation (about 10% of the total greenhouse acreage) and the sector has become fundamental for producers, who expect to reach 5,000 hectares in the next five years.

The manager of the Association of Organizations of Fruit and Vegetable Producers of Almería (Coexphal), Luis Miguel Fernández, is confident that this growth of eco-greenhouse production will become a reality if the current demand from traditional importers in Europe continues, and this is highly likely to be the case.

Organic product consumption in European markets has recorded sustained growth over the last five years, with the demand for organic fruits and vegetables being particularly noteworthy, said Fernández.

In fact, according to Fernández, some European distribution chains already plan for half of the horticultural products on their shelves to be organic in the short and medium term.

Therefore "it is a strategic sector" that meets the needs of customers and the new demands from consumers, and Almeria will be playing a "more dominant role in this market."

He stressed that "the province of Almeria has an advantage," as the Netherlands, which is the main Central European competitor when it comes to greenhouse production, resorts to hydroponic cultivation (with substrate instead of soil), given the difficulty of cultivating directly in the soil at sea level.

European organic production regulations only allow cultivation on soil and don't allow hydroponic systems (since the foods are grown on artificial substrate), and this is a "clear advantage, because we are able to offer European food chains bio products that some of our competitors are unable to supply."

Also, the conversion of conventional to organic in the province of Almeria benefited from the "green revolution" started in 2007, with a sector increasingly concerned with finding more sustainable and environmentally-friendly production methods.

Conventional producers found biological solutions for the control of pests, and this accumulated experience facilitated the switch to organic following a conversion period.

Another factor that has motivated conventional producers to make the switch to organic is the fact that pollination is carried out in a 100% natural manner. For example, "all the tomatoes of Almeria are now pollinated by bees, and not by hormones."

All these practices have facilitated the transition, because "you cannot use chemicals if you don't want to harm the auxiliary fauna." However, he also stressed that organic farming is not just about no longer using any chemicals.

The correct management of soil, crop rotation, training and advice are "key" aspects to make the change, stresses Rodríguez.

Therefore, on 16 and 17 May, the 2nd Ecological Agriculture Symposium will be held in Almeria. The event is organised by Coexphal, which is strongly focused on issues such as the management of organic matter and fertilization, crop protection, as well as microbiology.

Also, this year they have introduced a section to inform about biodynamics, whose products are also recording greater demand. Furthermore, there will be a presentation of the "2018-2020 National strategy for organic production," as well as of the rules for "Organic greenhouse production in Andalusia."

Source: EFE

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