The EU grants aid for 48,000 hectares of cotton in Spain all of which presently grown in Andalucía.
It used to be a major crop in this region up until the 80s when farmers started to switch to citrus fruits which were more profitable at that time. Now the market for fruit and vegetables has been opened to Morocco where prices are lower, local famers are unable to compete and are having to rely upon producing a better quality of fruit. So farmers are looking to return to growing cotton as a more cost effective alternative.
In 2008 and 2009, research was conducted at the campus Desamparados of the Universidad Miguel Hernández into the feasibility of growing cotton again in the Vega Baja. Tests were made growing long staple varieties suitable for the textile industry. The ten acres of the crop that were planted yielded 30 tons of high quality cotton – a good result.
It is now up to the Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (MARM) to decide whether the subsidy for growing cotton should be applied to the Vega Baja. There is of course a lot of pressure from Andalucía to keep all of the subsidy there.
Growing cotton is labour intensive, it does not require the same quality of water as citrus fruit and is well suited to the soil structure of this region. The conditions are therefore right for more extensive planting here, all that is required is the green light from the Ministry.
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