The other crops ruined by the ash from the La Palma volcano

The ash is wreaking havoc on the agriculture of the island of La Palma. Not only does it cause damage to bananas, but also a large part of the citrus and vegetable crops have been ruined after being covered by this material that is tirelessly expelled by the Cumbre Vieja volcano. A situation suffered not only by the farms located on the western slope, closest to the epicenter of the eruption, but also by the farms located in almost any corner of La Palma tree geography. Oranges, lemons, sleeves, lettuces and even flowers have been covered by it, something that reduces the profitability of farmers, who must face extra costs to try to save part of the production, while inevitably they must throw another percentage into the garbage .

Another sector highly affected by this material are proteas, which have already lost 70% of their production, on which fifty families live


Blas Bravo is one of the producers who suffers the effect of the ash. On his farm, located in Breña Alta, orange and avocado trees grow covered by a dense layer of this material. “The situation is complicated,” he warns, he has already lost at least 30% of the orange crop due to the consequences of the volcano. “The ash deposited on the oranges, as occurs with the sand on the beach, is heated by the sun and ends up burning the skin of the fruit,” he explains. A damage that accelerates the decomposition process of the orange shortening the period in which it is suitable for consumption.

Pumpkins totally covered by ash. | | AR

Bravo also states that collection in these circumstances is “extremely expensive” since workers must be equipped with the necessary measures to guarantee their safety in the face of a material that may pose health risks. In addition, the extra cost to try to clean the fruit. “If this goes to more it will be practically a catastrophe”, admits this farmer who assures that it is a problem on an island scale and that it can put the survival of many crops on La Palma at risk.

Bravo insists that the consequences of this ashfall may not end with this harvest, since the effect it causes on the leaves – burning them as it does with the fruit – may harm the development of the trees in the next season. “If the leaf is burned, the plant will have fewer reserves next year and it will produce worse.”

These sectors feel “somewhat forgotten” by the administrations, since the banana – the largest crop on the island and on which 10,000 families depend on La Palma – concentrates most of the concerns. “The banana is important but we also have losses,” he emphasizes.

Bad results that are being transferred to the marketers. Sodepal’s is already registering a decrease in the amount of fruit arriving at the Central Hortofrutícola. Gregorio Morilla, responsible for the direction of the agricultural part of the entity, explains that the early orange harvest on La Palma is “practically lost” due to the effect of the ash from the volcano, something that lemons or lettuces also suffer. “Consumers are used to buying the perfect fruit and that is why we register returns of boxes with fruit and vegetables,” he laments.

Bravo checks his orange crop for damage. | | AR

His job is to try to give output to these productions, especially those that are damaged abroad but have not lost properties. “Even having to reclassify it, I speak with small supermarkets on the island so that even if it is by giving them a cheaper price, it can be obtained,” he emphasizes. Although it is not always possible, as is the case with many oranges, that due to the effect of the ash they spoil in a short period of time.

Evidence that very few farms dedicated to orange have begun to harvest. “Almost all the farms are stopped,” he explains. The reason? Consider whether it is profitable to invest in the harvest or if, on the contrary, it is better to let the fruit remain on the tree and avoid these losses. “The cost it has in workers, in transport and classification may not make them profitable if with the destruction a good part of the merchandise is going to end up rotting in the chamber,” he says.

The president of the Cooperative Society of Campo Palmero (Cocampa), Miguel Bravo, points out that the losses in vegetables already reach 40%. “We are very concerned because the farmer is on the edge,” he assures. A dramatic situation that points out has already been transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of the Government of the Canary Islands in search of aid. Bravo calls for greater agility in the arrival of these subsidies and that those received by farmers be maintained under the Community Program for Support to Agricultural Productions of the Canary Islands (Posei), aids linked to the marketing of products, which if not If a regulatory change occurs at the European level, they would be reduced by the damage to crops due to the volcano.

The farmer Blas Bravo on his farm in Breña Alta. | | AR

The European Commission has already announced that it considers “justified” that these aids are maintained for farmers on the island of La Palma, but producers insist that it would also be necessary to articulate additional subsidies given the magnitude of this natural catastrophe.

The ash burns the skin of citrus fruits, accelerating the decomposition process, which reduces the marketing period. Farmers consider harvesting the fruit or leaving it on the tree to avoid further losses.


Another sector that has been badly damaged due to the effects of the ash expelled by the volcano is that of the proteas, some floral plants of which around fifty families live on the island. Francisco Molina, manager of the Cooperativa de Proteas La Palma, assures that the losses can be around 70% not only due to the accumulation of ash in the flowers themselves, which prevents their commercialization and export, but also, as it happens with other crops, due to leaf damage that can make plants disappear. “If this happens, many will leave,” he acknowledges, before adding that the extra cost is now 50% “because we try to wash them to save part of the production.”

Molina acknowledges that “not all agriculture is the same” and that in the case of proteas it drags the bad figures registered as a result of the pandemic. “They have been two hard years, it is true that there has been aid but farmers do not want that, they want to live on what they produce,” he concluded.


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