Portugal: Drought affecting entire country, ‘extreme gravity’ for livestock – farmers

The Confederation of Farmers (CAP) has warned that, in the face of drought, all winter activity is compromised, highlighting that livestock is entering a situation of “extreme gravity”, calling for government intervention.

“All winter activity is compromised and entering a situation of extreme gravity with regard to livestock and autumn and winter crops,” said the president of CAP, Eduardo Oliveira e Sousa, speaking to Lusa. 

According to him, the drought is now affecting practically the entire country. 

Eduardo Oliveira e Sousa reminded that rain “is essential” for the supply of groundwater and surface moisture, consumed by plants. 

Thus, given the days of sunshine that have been recorded, the plants enter in “expressive photosynthetic activity” and, consequently, in need for moisture.

Livestock is being especially affected and is close to a “very complicated phase” in terms of animal feed.

On the other hand, dams and reservoirs are at “historically low” levels and rivers with limited flowing water. 

CAP also said that something could only be done to circumvent the situation if the country, especially in the Algarve region, had desalination plants, avoiding the consumption of the volumes stored in the dams for human supply and public gardens.

“The panorama is very worrying. I’m surprised that there’s no official message directed at the public not to waste water in any way. A collective care with regard to water because the problem of drought is not limited to the rural world and farmers. Drought will affect us all. The shortages begin in agriculture, but there will be a day when they reach our taps in our homes”, he added. 

A “terrible year” is looming for farmers, and the situation could get worse if it doesn’t rain. 

In the case of dormant plants, such as fruit trees, if it rains at the beginning of spring, “things may not go too badly”, but if the opposite happens, it will be like “an oil slick sweeping across all sectors”. 

It may even not be possible to grow some crops, which will be a “very serious problem due to the potential for summer disasters associated with fires”. 

Consumer prices will also be impacted by the drought, due to the need to “increase imports, with increased transport and logistics costs”.

Faced with this situation, CAP noted that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a financial instrument that can help mitigate the impact but called for the executive to intervene. 

“It is good that the Government quickly starts thinking about helping the sectors that will clearly be most affected by this situation,” it concluded. 

Last week, climatologist Vanda Cabrinha had already considered that the drought situation in Portugal, especially in the south, is worrying, stressing that it has not yet reached the worst levels of the last 20 years for this time.

She indicated at the time that the drought situation “between weak and moderate” already occurred in the last quarter of 2021 and that there are no significant rainfall forecasts for the time being, at least until the end of January.

“It is an abnormal situation for this time. It is not at the level of a drought like we had in 2005. But if between the end of January and February there is no rainfall, the situation could get much worse,” she said.