The New Year's Eve grape, in suspense due to inflation and climate change

Drought, heat and extreme storms.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
05 September 2023 Tuesday 10:29
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The New Year's Eve grape, in suspense due to inflation and climate change

Drought, heat and extreme storms... are phenomena that affect the entire agricultural sector, but have a special impact on medium-sized and small-scale producers of traditional crops such as bagged grapes from Vinalopó, where high costs have been added this year a higher incidence of pests and diseases that is affecting production and has begun to give rise to an abandonment that until now had not been contemplated in this area of ​​the Alicante countryside.

Beatriz Rocamora, director of the Bagged Table Grape Denomination of Origin, explains it to La Vanguardia. "The production destined for New Year's Eve is still green, we don't know what is going to happen, now we need it not to rain and for it to start to get cold when it has to be cold... and for the market to work."

And it is that the grape of the Aledo variety, bagged as is traditional, is still in the field, lengthening its maturation thanks to this peculiar protection system, but since last August 28 the earliest variety has already been on the market. Rocamora explains that the prolonged heat, for many months, causes pests to change their cycles as blooms are altered, making it more difficult for a farmer to combat them, who has also seen a reduction in the use of phytosanitary products.

In this context, the drop in profitability experienced last year -after a 2021 "that went very well"- has discouraged some producers, especially those who reach retirement age and cannot find relief to take over.

"Last year ended very badly," recalls the director of the DO, "there was very little demand in the market due to inflation, since the product was expensive at the final point of sale, people did not buy and at the Being a perishable product, the prices at origin drop because you have to get rid of the product". For this reason, the profitability of many farms "has plummeted and has even caused some abandonment."

The Denomination of Origin has registered around 280 associates, including cooperatives, farmers, family businesses... but the abandonment is not giving way to other activities, Rocamora qualifies: "it is not that vines are being uprooted to plant something else , or to install solar panels, we have not reached that at the moment; it is simply that this year they are not going to maintain it".

Of the nearly 40 million kilos that are produced each year, more or less half belong to the Aledo variety, which we hastily consume while the bells ring. If the weather behaves in a stable manner, it is not expected that this amount will drop by more than 10% this year, there is no need to fear that it will be missing. But of course, the competition is great, "the excess supply is brutal," says Rocamora, "because there is a great variety, more every year: the seedless ones, the colored ones... in short... many options. And we have a very different approach, a traditional production, with autochthonous varieties and a completely artisan cultivation".

The production covered by the PDO is cultivated and conditioned only in the protected territory, which includes the Alicante municipalities of Aspe, Novelda, Hondón de las Nieves, Hondón de los Frailes, Monforte del Cid, Agost and La Romana. In addition, the seven grape varieties covered by the Denomination of Origin, all of them with seeds, cover the period from the end of August, with the earliest varieties (Victoria and Ideal), going through the middle of the campaign with varieties such as Red Globe, Doña María or Dominga, until the middle of January with the latest variety: Aledo, emblematic of Christmas.

Throughout the campaign, the production and marketing of the Vinalopó Grape with PDO can generate between 10,000 and 13,000 direct jobs, which is a decisive impact on the economy of the territory in which it is produced.