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Spanish farmers face drought and a ‘plague’ of rabbits

April 24, 2023

As well as low rainfall, Spanish farmers are also struggling to protect crops from a ‘plague’ of rabbits starved of fresh grass

As well as dealing with the exceptionally dry winter, farmers in Catalonia are facing a second problem, a plague of rabbits, who, starved of water, are beginning to destroy crops, especially wheat and barley, and eat the bark on vines and fruit trees.

Local Alex Foix said: “A lot of factors have contributed to the rabbit population explosion: there was the pandemic when no one could hunt for two years; they’ve become immune to myxomatosis; and the female can produce seven or eight offspring every two months.”

The local government has estimated that more than 250,000 rabbits need to be killed by September to contain the population. To aid in the effort to reduce the numbers, the government has permitted the use of aluminium phosphate, which releases toxic phosphine gas when introduced into burrows.

“If it doesn’t rain in April and we have another year like last year, the vines won’t survive,” says Juan Samboda, a member of Pagesos o conills (Farmers or rabbits).

Unusually, the area worst affected by drought isn’t in the south of the country but in the north-east region of Catalonia.

In Catalonia as a whole, water reserves are down to about 26%. (Euro Weekly)

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