Almería, Spain: a large-scale agricultural development
The southeast of Spain near Almería has a landscape similar to deserts in the USA. It has always been an arid area, receiving only 200mm of rainfall on average each year.
A map to show the location of Almeria and the greenhouse development in Spain
Over the last 35 years, the area has developed the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world. Covering 26,000 hectares the greenhouses are owned and operated by a combination of large businesses and individual farmers.
When you buy out of season food, such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and lettuce, chances are they were grown in and around Almería. The scheme delivers over half of Europe’s fruit and vegetables. As a result of this, the development brings over US$1.5 billion a year in income to the area.
This development has occurred for a number of reasons. These include:
changes in diet as people eat more fruit and vegetables
improved transport infrastructure and new, fast transport methods, which have reduced transport costs
the development of plastic used to build the greenhouses
the area receives around 3,000 hours of sun per year and, with an average temperature of 20 °C crops can be grown in the winter without the need for additional heating, therefore reducing costs
immigrants provide cheap labour
the region has received additional funding from the Spanish Government and the EU
The success of the greenhouses has led to them covering the plain of Dalías, extending up the valleys of the Alpujarra hills, one of Spain’s unspoilt areas. Hydroponics is used to grow almost all the plants. Zoom in to the map below to explore the area.
What have been the advantages and disadvantages of the large-scale agricultural development at Almería, Spain?
Advantages of the large-scale agricultural development at Almería
the development has led to significant advances in hydroponic growing techniques
the use of drip irrigation and hydroponics has led to less water being used
the warm temperatures throughout the year mean low energy costs
packing plants provide additional jobs
there is a regular supply of cheap, temporary migrants from North Africa, Eastern Europe and South America
factories providing materials for the greenhouses, such as factories, provide jobs
fruit and vegetables are provided throughout the year
there has been a reduction in the levels of chemicals used as the result of strict UK regulations on quality
the multiplier affect – new scientific agribusiness companies have moved to the area providing high-skilled research and development jobs
Disadvantages of the large-scale agricultural development at Almería
Conflict occurs between immigrants from different countries
Some immigrants work illegally so have no control over their working conditions
Immigrants often receive low pay and live in poor conditions
Ecosystems have been destroyed as large areas have been covered in plastic
Plastic is dumped at sea which has a negative impact on marine ecosystems
As pesticide use has increased so has the health risks associated with its use
Aquifers, natural underground stores of water, are drying up due to water being extracted for use in agriculture
Despite average temperatures rising in Spain, in Almería, they have dropped by 0.3 °C per ten years, as greenhouses reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere.
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