Spanish farm­ers go nuts for al­monds as global de­mand booms

Iran Daily - - Society -

Surg­ing world­wide de­mand for al­monds is push­ing Spanish farm­ers to re­place tra­di­tional wheat and sun­flower fields with al­mond or­chards, trans­form­ing the land­scape in the south of the coun­try.

Al­monds, thanks to their well-ad­ver­tised health ben­e­fits, are en­joy­ing global de­mand as snacks or in de­riv­a­tive forms like al­mond milk and al­mond flour, used as dairy or wheat al­ter­na­tives, AFP wrote.

In the Guadalquivir val­ley in the parched south­ern re­gion of An­dalu­sia “the land­scape has changed so much in re­cent years that wild boar now come down from the hills to eat al­monds”, said agron­o­mist Curro Lopez, 50, an ex­pert on al­mond farm­ing with Spanish agri­cul­ture ma­chin­ery firm Agrosan.

Dur­ing the har­vest, which in Santa Cruz near Cor­doba be­gan at the end of Au­gust, large nets are laid on the ground to col­lect al­monds which are then shaken off the wispy branches of the trees by a ma­chine in just a few sec­onds.

Spain is on track to har­vest over 61,000 tons of al­monds dur­ing the 2018-19 sea­son, a record amount and a 15-per­cent rise over the pre­vi­ous sea­son, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates from a national pro­duc­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

Spain is the world’s third big­gest al­mond pro­ducer be­hind Aus­tralia, and the US which is the world’s top pro­ducer by a huge mar­gin.

California alone ac­counts for 80 per­cent of the world’s sup­ply of al­monds, ac­cord­ing to its pow­er­ful al­mond board, which tire­lessly pro­motes the ben­e­fits of the nut as a source of pro­tein and healthy fats.

Spain, which uses al­monds in many tra­di­tional desserts such as nougats, con­tin­ues to im­port huge quan­ti­ties of al­monds from California de­spite be­ing a ma­jor pro­ducer of the nut it­self.

Ris­ing prices

“When we think it was Spanish mis­sion­ar­ies who brought al­monds to the United States” in the 18th cen­tury, said Jose Mil­lan, as he su­per­vised the har­vest­ing of al­monds from his fam­ily’s land in Santa Cruz.

The 61-year-old was one of the first to in­tro­duce in­ten­sive al­mond farm­ing to An­dalu­sia a decade ago. To­day, 62 hectares (150 acres) out of the fam­ily’s 650 hectares of land are ded­i­cated to the crop.

His neigh­bors have fol­lowed his ex­am­ple. While al­mond trees were largely ab­sent from the An­dalu­sian coun­try­side, to­day ir­ri­gated al­mond or­chards can be found ev­ery­where in the re­gion.

For­sak­ing sun­flow­ers or wheat, farm­ers A US Border Pa­trol agent was ar­rested in the state of Texas on sus­pi­cion of killing four women.

Of­fi­cers be­gan look­ing for Juan David Or­tiz in the city of Laredo af­ter a fifth woman al­legedly es­caped from him and got help from lo­cal po­lice, BBC re­ported.

Or­tiz, who has worked for the force for a decade, ini­tially fled but was later ar­rested in a ho­tel park­ing lot. The names of the four vic­tims have not been re­vealed. Webb County Sher­iff Martin Cuel­lar said po­lice be­lieved Or­tiz had acted alone.

“The county, the city can rest as­sured we have the se­rial killer in cus­tody,” Sher­iff Cuel­lar said, in quotes re­ported by the Laredo Times news­pa­per.

Two of the vic­tims were found ear­lier this month in a ru­ral area by the In­ter­state 35 road, and the third and fourth vic­tims were found in the same area in re­cent days, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal re­ports.

A 42-year-old woman had been found in­jured on Thurs­day but died in hospi­tal. are bet­ting on al­mond trees which can eas­ily com­ple­ment olive tree har­vest­ing since the same tree ‘shaker’ ma­chines can be used on both crops.

“World al­mond pro­duc­tion dou­bled in the last 10-12 years, go­ing from 600,000 tons to 1.2 mil­lion tons, and con­sump­tion has in­creased at the same rhythm,” said Cristobal Perez, who runs a fac­tory that opened re­cently near Cor­doba which trans­forms al­monds into by-prod­ucts.

Farm­ers have been en­cour­aged to grow al­monds due to ris­ing prices which went from €3 ($3.5) per kilo (2.2 pounds) to €9 eu­ros per kilo four to five years ago, he said. Farm­ers are cur­rently get­ting about €5 per kilo of al­monds, he added.

Limit water use

Lopez, the agron­o­mist, planted over 16,000 al­mond trees in what used to be al­falfa fields near the Guadalquivir river last year. They are ex­pected to bear their first fruits in two years.

Like many other area farm­ers, he ar­gued, US farm­ers have used mar­ket­ing to sell their ‘in­sipid’ al­monds al­most ev­ery­where.

The new al­mond plan­ta­tions will al­low Spain to sell to fac­to­ries ‘huge lots of just one va­ri­ety’ of al­monds, and use new grow­ing tech­niques to en­sure that there are no bit­ter al­monds among the batches, a prob­lem which could give Spanish al­monds a bad rep­u­ta­tion, Lopez said.

Amid con­cerns over global warm­ing and re­cur­ring droughts in Spain, al­mond farm­ers stress they are tak­ing steps to en­sure their thirsty crops con­sume as lit­tle water as pos­si­ble.

Lopez uses an elec­tronic de­vice in his or­chard that mea­sures air tem­per­a­ture and soil hu­mid­ity lev­els to care­fully dose the amount of water he uses to ir­ri­gate his al­mond trees.

The lo­cal water board also puts re­stric­tions on how much water each farmer can use per hectare of land.

“If it was a big­ger amount, pro­duc­tions would be higher. We are lim­ited,” said Mil­lan.

‘Hor­rific case’

District At­tor­ney Isidro Alaniz de­scribed the killings as a ‘hor­rific case’ and con­firmed Or­tiz was set to face four charges of mur­der and one of ag­gra­vated kid­nap­ping.

He said the cause of death was sim­i­lar for all four women who, au­thor­i­ties be­lieve, were killed over two weeks.

He said the in­ves­ti­ga­tors were try­ing to find a mo­tive for the killings.

Two of the vic­tims were US cit­i­zens, he added. Few other de­tails have been re­leased.

The Texas Tri­bune re­ported the fifth woman fled from a petrol sta­tion af­ter Or­tiz al­legedly pointed a gun at her when she tried to get out of his ve­hi­cle.

Andrew Mee­han, as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner for pub­lic af­fairs for US Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion, con­firmed in a state­ment that the agency was co­op­er­at­ing with po­lice.

“Our sin­cer­est con­do­lences go out to the vic­tims’ fam­ily and friends,” he said.

RUS­SELL CON­TR­ERAS/AP In this Jan­uary 4, 2016 file photo, a US Border Pa­trol agent drives near the Us-mex­ico border fence in Santa Teresa, N.M.

CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP

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