This article is part of our special report Young people and women in EU farming.
Excessive red tape, combined with lack of access to land and proper rural infrastructure, continues to be the main obstacle to attracting young men and women in Spain’s agriculture sector. EFE Agro reports.
In Spanish institutions and the agri-food sector, it’s common knowledge that generational renewal in farming needs to be reinforced.
However, access to land and financing, as well as excessive bureaucracy, pose severe challenges, particularly to young farmers.
In an effort to shed light on the situation Spanish young farmers are faced with, EFE agro interviewed a number of stakeholders from the Spanish agriculture sector as well as young farmers who recently started their business.
They said access to land remains a key obstacle.
“There must be measures in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to facilitate access to land and other [measures] to encourage young people to join [the sector],” said Ignacio López Asenjo, director of international relations for the agricultural organisation Asaja.
“Conditions to access land and payment rights could be improved, so that older farmers are not affected, but at the same time young people can also join the sector,” Asenjo added.
The Spanish government has already allocated some €880 million from the current CAP to co-finance the first installation aid. The objective is to provide assistance to 21,300 producers, some 8,000 of whom have already received it.
An example is Pedro Gomariz, a 31-year-old citrus producer from Murcia (southeast Spain). After studying business administration, he decided to return to his village and take over the family farm when his father retired.
Gomariz is the fifth generation from his family to work on these lands.
In addition to excessive red tape and the days “lost” in bureaucratic procedures, he told Efe Agro how heavy taxation prevented his father from donating him the land, and he therefore had to rent it.
Six months after the administrative steps were initiated, he finally got some licenses, “something that doesn’t happen every day”, he said.
He also received incentives, which he used to buy a tractor and modernise his farm.
Now, he produces 1,000 tonnes of lemons and grapefruit, uses solar energy and has a cover over the water basins.
Gonzalo Vilsus, a 29-year old farmer, is another example. He grows cereals and vegetables in Murillo del Fruto (Navarra).
“Since I was a little kid, I liked the countryside a lot,” he said. “My father is dedicated to this and has helped me a lot”.
Vilsus explained how difficult it was to start his own agri-business considering that there is “no one to support you and the land is the main barrier.”
He also received CAP funds, which helped him join the sector. He is very pleased with his current work and says he is not willing to change profession.
“I am now the one in charge and I make my own decisions regarding my farm,” Vilsus said.
The CAP cannot continue without women
Spain’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, has said the equation to achieving a sustainable agricultural sector has three key elements: access to water, digitalisation of the production system and the incorporation of young people and women in the countryside.
On the latter, Planas pushed through the European Parliament the need to include a gender perspective in the CAP.
But the proposal submitted by the European Commission at the end of 2018 on “the future of food and agriculture” does not make a single reference to rural women, said Carmen Quintanilla the president of the Association of Families and Women of the Rural World (Afammer).
“The future CAP has to incorporate measures to reduce the gender wage gap in the rural environment and to encourage the generational changeover of women,” Quintanilla said.
For Spanish farmer María de los Ángeles Rosado, in order to keep activity in the countryside, it is also essential that public authorities provide them with services and technological infrastructures.
“There should be paediatricians, broadband, roads … everything that allows us not only to work in the agri-food sector but also to live and establish ourselves as individuals, as families,” she said.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]