Water availability in Almería

S.M.P. Carvalho

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterProfessional


This report provides information on production and marketing of greenhouse products (mainly vegetables) in the Almeria area in south-east Spain. Also the status of higher education, research and consultancy is presented and discussed. In Almeria greenhouse horticulture is the main economic activity with a production value of about 1.2 billion Euros. Products are sold through auctions and co-operatives. The area of plastic houses is estimated at 40.000 ha and forms the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world. Most producers are family companies of about 1-1.5 ha. Greenhouses are almost all unheated (no energy costs, no CO2 enrichment), symmetric and covered with polyethylene on a small roof slope. Cultivation is mostly (90€in an artificial sandy soil ("enarenado"). Large amounts of water and nutrients are lost in this free-drainage system. In Almeria the use of biocides per unit of product is 7 to 11 times higher than in the Netherlands. Botrytis cinerea, white fly (virus vector) and thrips are the main problems. Water use is about 1 m3 per m2 greenhouse and 4-5 times higher than annual rainfall. The additional water comes from 150-600 m deep wells (partly fossil water) and from the mountains. The water has a high salinity, especially in the new-developed greenhouse area. Desalinisation of water from the Mediterranean Sea may be a solution for the water problem, although expensive. Labor costs are low, as is labor productivity, compared to the Netherlands. At present, insufficient labor is available. Migrants, some illegal, from Africa, Central and South America or Eastern Europe, are filling this gap. The activities of research stations in the region seemed negatively influenced by the limited contacts with growers and the absence of English-speaking employees. The University of Almeria focuses mainly on teaching and scarcely funds are available for research. There are only three large consultancy groups in Almeria: considering the high number of growers and the great need for knowledge, this is insufficient. In conclusion, the higher light levels and temperatures in winter compared to the Netherlands, the low energy use, the low production costs and the family companies are the strong points of the Almeria greenhouse district. Weak points are the high biocide use and the small size of the grower companies (hard to co-ordinate). Furthermore, the marketing is too much cut into bits and often not done by professionals. Threats are future water shortage, the already observed labor shortage, which is expected to increase and a market that gives more and more attention to the environmental aspects of production. Necessary changes will involve high investments. High salinity of the water limits the possibilities for recirculation. In the future, Morocco and Turkey may develop to strong competitors of Almeria. The change to the new generation of growers, better educated and less conservative, and the many international contacts form opportunities for the Almeria greenhouse district.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGreenhouse horticulture in Almería(Spain) : report on a study tour 24-29 January 2000
EditorsJ.M. Costa, E. Heuvelink
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherHorticultural Production Chains Group
ISBN (Print)9789067545938
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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