Top News

The field ages | Tarragona Newspaper

Our agricultural sector is aging by leaps and bounds. The figures are devastating. 41% of Catalan farmers are over 65 years old and 25% are over 55. The generational change is conspicuous by its absence, since farmers under 41 years of age do not even reach 10%. Throughout Catalonia, 17% of farmers have stopped contributing to Social Security since 2010, while the number of farms in the province of Tarragona is decreasing year after year, going from 22,454 in 2015 to 19,567 in 2020, that is, 12.8% less. The agricultural area has also fallen by 1.4% in the last five years in our regions.

Rafel Español perfectly reflects what is happening. This farmer from El Morell is 66 years old and, although he retired a year ago, he continues to work his land. «With a retirement pay of 784 euros, plus another that my wife has, who was also self-employed, it does not reach us. So I keep working the land. I do it to supplement my pension, but also to take care of the land”, explains Rafel to Diari.

But despite continuing to work on his hazelnut and olive trees, this farmer admits that “it doesn’t help me to supplement my pension or to maintain my assets. If everything was as it was 15 years ago, I would have someone working for me, but I can’t, as we have been working below cost prices for a long time.”

In this case, as in most, there is no generational change. «I am the fifth generation of peasants and I have no relief. My son likes the land and, in fact, he helps me. But since it is very difficult to make a living from this, he dedicates himself to something else », explains Rafel, who acknowledges that « the moment is critical and my heart sinks when I look around my lands and see abandoned farms. I endure out of pride, because I have seen my grandfather and my father work the land and I want to maintain the heritage».

The territorial coordinator of the Camp de Tarragona of Unió de Pagesos, Pere Guinovart, cannot hide that “we are very concerned about the aging of our peasantry. The young people who continue to work the land are very few. For example, in the hazelnut sector, more than 85% are older people.”

Guinovart attributes this problem to different reasons. “On the one hand, there are the prices, which are not good”, comments the historical leader of Unió de Pagesos, who adds that “we are selling at prices from 20 years ago. If you add to this that production costs have skyrocketed alarmingly (electricity, 30%; phytosanitary products, 25%; fertilizer, 40%, or diesel, 50%), this means that holdings are not viable. Lastly, and in the case of hazelnuts, “we have not harvested for two years due to climate change,” adds the trade unionist.

Guinovart speaks of “a situation of discouragement” among the peasantry and laments that “while farmers are having a hard time and there are fewer and fewer, the distribution sector has closed with profits in the last two years. The distribution of cereals is in the hands of four investment funds that dominate the Camp de Tarragona market. The conclusion is easy: those who are doing business are the large distributors and the investment funds, not the peasants».

Set to find solutions, the leader of Unió de Pagesos in Camp de Tarragona recalls that “we depend on three factors. Of the European Union and its aid, of the State and of the agrarian policies of the Generalitat. The latter are leading young people who want to be peasants into debt, when they should be pampered, for example with global exploitation contracts with a guaranteed income. The Generalitat must decide whether to bet on a family agrarian policy or an agrarian policy in the hands of investment funds.

Measures of the Generalitat

Despite these complaints from the peasants, from the Generalitat they defend that they are carrying out active policies to try to stop this aging of the peasantry. In this sense, the secretary of the Rural Agenda, Oriol Anson, explains that “in order to try to bring about generational change, there are direct non-refundable aid to young people, co-financed by the EU and by us. We are approving between 280 and 300 applications a year, all of them with the commitment to maintain agricultural activity for at least five years.

Anson recalls that “there is other help to make farms more viable. Apart from these aids, we have the land registry, which aims to identify abandoned plots, search for the owner and propose that they incorporate it into a registry so that it can end up in the hands of some young peasant. Although the problem is of great magnitude, the secretary of the Rural Agenda says he is “optimistic, because if the peasantry ends we would have a problem as a country.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button