Forage shortage

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April 23

Dear Sir,

Daily I hear on the Spanish news channels that Spain is suffering a drought and that fruit and vegetables are getting more and more expensive due to this. But as a horse owner, I can tell you that I am having a lot of trouble to source alfalfa and hay, the price has doubled in a year. Hay is a yearly crop that will be harvested shortly in May/June, and usually comes from the north of Spain. What is not sold is stored in warehouses and sold throughout the year, usually until the next harvest. This year, many warehouses ran out of hay a month ago. And with the lack of rain, there is a real fear of a bad harvest this year.

Many horse owners, traditionally feed alfalfa and oat hay to their horses, but for the past 12 months, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have been snapping up alfalfa bales and pellets, paying well over the price they are traditionally sold at in Spain. Logically farmers are going to sell to whoever pays them more. So a 15 to 20 kilo bale of alfalfa, if you can source one can easily hit €15, where it used to €4.

Dolores and Catral are the main producers of alfalfa which is a very productive fast growing crop as it can be harvested every 10 to 15 days between March and September, but it needs a lot of water. So far my supplier has only been able to source alfalfa from Cádiz.

With the lack of alfalfa, horse owners are turning to hay and straw, hence the warehouses ran out early this year. Also with the lack of rain, there is no natural grazing available either.
It won’t be the first year that we have had almost a year without rain in this area, it also happened in 2017, when it didn’t rain until September/October. But it had rained in parts of Spain where forage is grown, and we didn’t have the forage being exported abroad.

With more straw being consumed by farm animals, this means there is less straw to make pellets for wood fires, so expect those to double or triple in price this autumn.

So in all, it’s a very worrying time and the Spanish government should stop exports abroad so that national needs are covered, but this is very unlikely to happen.

Glynnis Shelby

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