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Illegal avocado monocultures ‘damage’ the Algarve economically, warns environmental association

101avocado monocultureRegenerarte, an environmental protection association, has launched a crowdfunding campaign which addresses the issue of avocado plantations in the Algarve, namely some cases that began as early as 2014, at the hands of a family business headquartered in Loulé, criticizing the consequences throughout the region.

One example put forward by the association is one of an area of ??150 hectares, in the area of ??Barão de São João, municipality of Lagos, where an avocado plantation has been installed, a total of 80 hectares of trees were planted with subsidies from the PDR2020 (around 600 thousand euros). Regenerarte says that they initially destroyed the entire natural vegetation of the area, then removed all stones from the ground, even the largest ones, damaging the characteristics of the soil.

Later, they wanted to expand this avocado plantation another 50 hectares, but they were unable to obtain the approval of CCDR and APA because of the pressure it was having on local water resources already, especially considering that the expansion would would join the existing plantation to a 40 hectare golf course nearby.

The expansion was thus prevented. Shortly thereafter, a business by the name Frutineves came along, who also work on setting up avocado tree plantations, and were hoping to locate themselves in this area because they had informed that there was a lot of water in area due to a large aquifer located beneath the ground. This new company then also worked to clear and destroy all vegetation, worsening the consequences for the biodiversity within the municipiality.

In May 2019, the CCDR decreed an embargo on Frutineves preventing them from planting anything in the area of ??Barão de São João before an environmental impact assessment was carried out, due to the pre-existing plantation and golf course in the area.

However, this embargo did nothing as in June the company started planting avocado trees despite being ordered not to. In addition to buying more properties, of which they currently about 13 (totalling 130 hectares), they have installed the entire irrigation system, and planted all the trees, all of this after the embargo was enacted.

Although the GNR have gone there to inspect several times, they were unable to stop them from continuing to plant the avocado trees. There is also no sign of an environmental impact assessment being carried out, which the law requires as the region the illegal plantation has been set up “is valued”, defends Regenerarte.

The negative effects on aquifer resources is the main issue, since toxic herbicides are applied to the trees which go on to damage the environment and destroy biodiversity through tainting the local water resources. In addition, the local population’s health is also affected.

Moreover, these sort of projects are typically highly automated, creating few jobs for the region. Most avocado produce is also sent over to a Spanish company that guarantees the purchase of the entire production of the vast majority of companies setting up avocado companies in the Algarve, meaning that not much money remains in the hands of local Algarvians.

“The water they are using, with figures given by DRAPAlg, daily from the two plantations that add up to about 200 hectares, is 3.5 million litres of water” claims the environmental association. This at a time of drought makes the situation only more unfortunate.