UK supermarkets urge Andalucia against huge strawberry farm expansion | Spain

A group of leading supermarkets including Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have written to the regional government of Andalucia, warning that plans to allow more strawberry farms near one of the largest protected wetlands in Europe could jeopardize “the region’s reputation and long-term development”.

Last month, right-wing MPs from Spain’s southern region ignored protests from the central government, the EU, Unesco and several environmental groups by voting to “regularise” 1,461 hectares (3,610 acres) of land near Doñana National Park.

The move – described by WWF Spain as a “mortal blow to the already over-exploited aquifer that gives life to Doñana” – means farmers who dug illegal wells and built illicit plantations on the land will be able to legitimize their operations .

A recent WWF investigation showing illegal irrigation in the area. Photography: WWF Spain

Juan Manuel Moreno, regional president and member of the conservative People’s Party, argued that the legislation will allow authorities to more closely monitor water withdrawals that have been going on for years.

But environmentalists disagree, as do some of the big agribusinesses that source their strawberries and other red berries from the Huelva and Doñana regions near protected wetlands.

In their letter to MorenoThe companies warn that any attempt to alter a 2014 plan that imposed a moratorium on new farms in the region could prove hugely damaging.

“The existing special plan is an important tool to ensure a more sustainable culture at the origin of the supply chain,” they state. “We are concerned that the proposed changes will undermine this objective and endanger Doñana National Park.”

The letter – which has been coordinated by WWF Spain and also signed by Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Morrisons, Spar and drinks company Innocent – calls on the regional government to “abstain from the proposed change”.

“Appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the sustainability of water and soil management in Doñana in the long term,” write the signatories.

“If this is not successful, we believe the region’s reputation and long-term development as a sourcing area is at risk.”

The letter follows a similar call from Spain’s environment minister, who said the move risks damaging Spain’s international reputation, undermining efforts to address the climate emergency and could bring the EU to initiate costly legal proceedings.

“Given the enormous harm, both economic and environmental – not to mention the damage to Spain’s image abroad – I… ask you to abandon this process before the Andalusian parliament, which could prove so damaging for Spain,” Teresa Ribera said in another letter. in Moreno in February.

An Iberian lynx is released in Doñana National Park in southern Spain.
An Iberian lynx is released in Doñana National Park in southern Spain. Photograph: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters

“No one should think we’re going to erode our natural gems down to a millimeter,” Moreno said in January. “We’re going to protect him because that’s what the law tells us to do and because that’s what we want to do.”

The water supply of Doñana, where marshes, forests and dunes cover nearly 130,000 hectares in the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cádiz, has declined significantly over the past 30 years due to climate change. , agriculture, mining pollution and marsh drainage. Doñana is visited by millions of migratory birds every year and is also home to a large population of endangered Iberian lynx.

Berries play a huge role in the local economy. Included between January and June of last year, exports of soft fruits from Huelva – almost 20% of which in the UK – were worth €801.3m (£678m).

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