The production of avocados in the Algarve has sparked public outrage, as many have strong objections to it due to the exacerbated waste of water. Avocado farms are becoming more and more common in the Algarve. Due to the fruit being recognised as very beneficial to human health, demand has increased, the price has risen and, consequently, the production also experienced an increase, not only in Portugal, but wherever the fruit can be grown – that means tropical and subtropical regions.
Joaquim Mourinho, owner of Frutas Mourinho, who aside from avocados, also farms pomegranates and citrus fruits, clarifies the benefits around the avocado production that is useful not only for the local economy but also for the environment
“Avocado farms don’t need more water per hectare than citrus fruits and in the Algarve we have 1,600 hectares of avocados and 15,000 hectares of citrus fruits” that have the same usage of water as avocados, according to the farmer. Additionally, avocados barely need any pesticides and herbicides, because they usually restore the organic matter by themselves.
Mourinho added: “Just one avocado tree is able to transform carbon dioxide into enough oxygen for two adults”, which has notable benefits for reducing the ecological footprint. Avocado production contributes to the creation of jobs – directly and indirectly. For example, there are transport companies delivering avocados from the Algarve to all over Europe; there are many factories producing boxes to pack the fruits safely; and also we have people doing the accounting of these companies, and they also pay their taxes to the state”.
The benefits are also seen in the water cycle. Mourinho explained that when it rains, without the land being cultivated, the water has more difficulty infiltrating because the land is compact, not allowing the creation of groundwater and the water drains without any real use. With more agriculture the water penetrates the subsoil more easily. “There is no water shortage in the Algarve, water is being wasted through ineffective methods, because it rains and water drains without infiltrating.”
That means, for Mourinho, that the issue around the lack of water in the Algarve is supported through a lie. “The Algarve has a lot of water, but the management of it is wrong – we need to build more dams, more vegetation, create conditions to avoid runoff from rainwater- because we clearly do not have the right methods to make the most out of the water available in the Algarve.”