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We Need a High-Altitude Fruit Growing Plan

The PS-Madeira Parliamentary Group at ALRAM visited this Wednesday the Chestnut Festival of Curral das Freiras, where they sympathised with regional producers whose harvests had yet again been poor due to weather changes, and the lack of any answers from the Regional Government.

Over the last decade fruit production has decreased by more than 15% in the agricultural area in Madeira. At the same time, the new Secretary of Agriculture and Environment “has announced another strategic plan for the island’s chestnut trees instead of looking at and creating an action plan for high-altitude fruit growing, which incorporates not only the cultivation of chestnuts but apples, plums and cherries, as producers cannot depend on a single crop to obtain their income. Moreover, they are being condemned to a life dependent on support that often does not arrive or arrives late and is not enough to cover the losses or give them the opportunity to create better conditions for the following year.”

Regarding the lack of support, the PS deputy recalls that there are financial instruments that are easy to activate, which could be delivered to producers right after the storms. This, he said, did not happen due to a variety of reasons, especially as the European Union does not require records of where and to whom the money goes to.

In the meantime, the already promised several times renovation work of the Chestnut Processing Centre, inaugurated in 2002, but inoperative almost from the beginning, remains to be achieved. The centre could be beneficial in the valorisation of the chestnut, for example, in calibration, but also in sterilisation, which is necessary to eliminate maggots, that eat the flesh of the chestnuts and are a bone of contention with customers. Furthermore, chestnuts can be ground into flour, dried, or dehydrated, and used to make the Curral das Freiras delicacies.

We need to make changes, our crops are suffering, and so are the livelihoods of our farmers.

Chestnut four was used in medieval times, as chestnut bread could last up to a year before going off.

Samantha Gannon

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