Economic downturn in Portugal is far from over. Farming is one of the sectors which have suffered the most as a result of the crisis. It is hardly surprising, seeing that the most recognizable export goods of the country come from farms and forests – namely wine, tomatoes or cork wood.
No one’s land
Vast acreage of uncultivated farmland is the most acute problem of Portuguese farming sector. As little as 37% out of the 8.4 million hectares of farmland is cultivated regularly. Consequently, valuable land lies unused, and the state receives less revenue from taxes which would be due if more agricultural produce was obtained. The main issue, however, is that uncultivated land does not generate profits, which is a great pity seeing how serious the current economic crisis in Portugal is. Conflagrations of unused farmland are another problem, also for citizens’ safety. Why does so much land remain uncultivated?
Keeping the young
The answer is easy – rural population, especially the young, are eager to move to the cities or to go abroad, to the dynamically developing former Portuguese colonies, such as Angola or Brazil. About 5 million Portuguese live abroad. The authorities are striving to persuade the young – farmers in particular – to stay. In the North and South of the country one may even obtain land or a whole farm for free, as long as they are ready with a business plan specifying the manner in which the land will be cultivated.
There remains hope
Experts suggest possible methods to tackle the issue of uncultivated farmland. First and foremost, it would be advisable to update the digital register of farm owners, so that abandoned farms could be taken over by a national fund and given to people who would like to use the land. Moreover, a review of rural real estate register is necessary, and might bring extra revenue. Such activities may result in a revival of Portuguese farming and help improve the balance of trade exchange with Spain, the country which now buys nearly 25% of all goods exported from Portugal.