MARINA Baixa farmers were shocked this week as they arrived at their farms to discuss the plague of Xylella Fastidiosa with the Ministry of Agriculture to find the ministry had already begun tearing their trees down one hour earlier.
The farmers were told to meet with the ministry at 7.00am on Wednesday morning, also in attendance were local Mayors from Guadalest, Benifato, Benimantell, Confrides and Polop and a representative from ASAJA.
However, arriving at the site, the farmers were met by two machines and learnt that eight ministry workers had already destroyed 10 trees without prior discussion.
The Guardia Civil were called to the scene and the ministry workers were stopped.
The point of the meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture was to request a less aggressive protocol be applied where the Xylella Fastidiosa has been detected, to protect the livelihood of the farmers.
The current protocol is in line with European Union regulations which dictate a plant found to be infected by Xylella Fastidiosa should be eradicated, along with all plants within 100 metres of it, even if they are not infected:
‘Strict eradication measures apply, consisting in a clear cut of all host plants of the specific subspecies of Xylella Fastidiosa, irrespective of their health status, in a radius of 100 m around the infected plants.’
The European Union recognises these regulations impact on the local agro-economy:
‘Although these measures impact on the local agro-economy, they are needed in the interest of the Union as whole in order to preserve EU agriculture, as well as public and private gardens.’
The mayors are reported to have sent letters to the ministry requesting a less aggressive protocol and received no response.
The farmers fear for their crops. They understand the need for the strict eradication measures but are of the opinion that the ministry is acting too hastily in eradicating fields and fields of trees before properly testing for the bacteria:
‘We do not object to those who devastate the fields if it is what needs to be done but we want to analyse all the options before’, a farmer explained.