José María Gomez, a farmer in southern Spain, believes organic farming is about more than the absence of pesticides and chemicals. According to him, it is “a way of life that requires creativity and respect for nature.”
Gomez, 44, grows vegetables and citrus fruits on a three hectare farm in Valle del Guadalhorce, 40 km from Malaga city, where he sells his crops at an organic food market. In addition, Gomez, whose parents were also farmers, delivers fresh products to the house, thus closing the circle “from the field to the table.”
The economic crisis in Spain, where the unemployment rate is about 25%, has not had an impact on organic agriculture. In 2012, farmland labeled “organic” was occupied, according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection. The income from such agriculture amounted to .
“Organic farming in Spain and Europe is on the rise despite the crisis, because the buyers of this market segment are very loyal,” says Victor Gonzalvez, coordinator of the non-state Spanish Association of Organic Agriculture. The offer of organic food is growing rapidly both in street stalls and city squares, as well as in some supermarket chains.
The southern region of Andalusia has the largest area dedicated to organic farming, with 949,025 hectares officially registered. Most of the products grown in Andalusia are exported to other European countries such as Germany and the UK. The idea of export is contrary to the views of organic agriculture, which is an alternative to industrial agriculture.
, said Pilar Carrillo in Tenerife. Spain, with its mild climate, has the largest area dedicated to organic agriculture in the European Union. According to the same criterion, it ranks as the fifth largest area in the world after Australia, Argentina, the United States and China, according to a report by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement. However, the control and certification of organic farming, which is carried out in Spain by both public and private bodies, is neither easy nor free.
To be sold as organic, products must be labeled with the code of the relevant authority. Eco agriculture certification takes at least 2 years of extremely thorough inspection. Such investments inevitably lead to an increase in product prices. Quilez, who grows aromatic and medicinal plants in Tenerife, has to pay for certification as an organic farmer and seller, doubling the cost. According to Gonzalvez, “”. He also notes that farmers are “afraid to take the leap” into alternative agriculture due to lack of government support and advisory services.
, says Gomez, standing among the tomato at his Bobalén Ecologico farm.
Although the level of consumption of organic products in Spain is still low, this market is growing, and interest in it is increasing due to scandals surrounding the traditional food industry. Kualiz, who once quit a well-paid IT job to devote himself to organic culture, argues: “Exploitative agriculture undermines food sovereignty. This is clearly seen in the Canary Islands, where 85% of the food consumed is imported.”