Crops in the Canary Islands were ravaged by a massive sandstorm affecting the archipelago from February 22 through 24, 2020. Agrarian leaders are expecting the damages to be long-term as not only the current harvest was lost, but the next ones are also at risk.
The sandstorm, known as calima in the Canary Islands, was described to be the worst in 40 years– it wreaked havoc across the archipelago, caused hundreds of canceled flights, exacerbated bushfires which forced thousands to evacuate, and badly affected the agricultural sector.
Among the worst-hit crops are banana, potato, and avocado. The effects of sandstorm also threaten ornamental flowers.
In some parts, the impact of the storm on banana plantations may be the same as that of Tropical Storm "Delta" in 2005, according to Javier Gutierrez, the general secretary of the Association of Agricultural Producers and Livestock Farmers of the Canary Islands (Asaga Canarias).
The same impact applies to farms in Tenerife's Orotava Valley and La Palma. "Almost half of the plants are in the ground, but in those still standing the damage has been so brutal that they cannot be packaged."
Meanwhile, many banana plantations will have to be uprooted and sown again "with the investment that this entails," Gutierrez added.
In these cases, there may be a year of loss ahead as future harvests are also at risk.
Sandstorm over the Canary Islands on February 22, 2020. Credit: NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP/VIIRS
Sandstorm over the Canary Islands on February 23, 2020. Credit: NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP/VIIRS
For potato crops, the areas hit by the sandstorm are those in which the drought had not yet affected. "Those have been completely blown away," said Angela Delgado, president of Asaga, who fears that there will be a reduction in the production of potatoes at nearly 50 percent.
Green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and escarole were also severely hit, according to Juan Antonio Hernandez, secretary of the Coordinator of Agricultural Producers and Livestock Organizations (COAG).
Hernandez added that tomato crops in the municipality of La Aldea were impacted. Avocados were ravaged in the middle of the flowering period, thus, the next harvest will be compromised.
Minister of Agriculture of the Canarian Government Alicia Vanooestende had visited several plantain and avocado farms to check the situation. The damage assessment is now underway and it may take days to finalize the full extent, but she expects them to be "substantial".
"There is a lot of effect on banana plantations, with loss of production, breakage of leaves that involve significant long-term damage, and also in the avocado sector when many fruits fall."
— À Punt Oratge (@apuntoratge) February 22, 2020
Today I learned what a #calima is and what it feels like. This is definitely a kind of apocalypse feeling right now.
„Calimas are hot wind storms that carry sand towards the Canary Islands from the Sahara, capable of lifting dust thousands of metres above the Atlantic Ocean.“ pic.twitter.com/fzXfZvGCdp
— diehimmelstraeumerin (@felibe444) February 23, 2020
The Canary Islands suffer from “calima” all the time. Calima is basically sand/dust storms coming from the Sahara.
This is a photo I received today: visibility is reduced, winds are super strong, and people are encouraged to stay inside. pic.twitter.com/afUPMt48Nq
— Chiara Vercellone (@chiaravep) February 23, 2020
Featured image credit: Sandstorm over the Canary Islands on February 22, 2020. Credit: NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP/VIIRS
If you value what we do here, create your ad-free account and support our journalism.
Your support makes a difference
Dear valued reader,
We hope that our website has been a valuable resource for you.
The reality is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and resources to maintain and grow this website. We rely on the support of readers like you to keep providing high-quality content.
If you have found our website to be helpful, please consider making a contribution to help us continue to bring you the information you need. Your support means the world to us and helps us to keep doing what we love.
Support us by choosing your support level – Silver, Gold or Platinum. Other support options include Patreon pledges and sending us a one-off payment using PayPal.
Thank you for your consideration. Your support is greatly appreciated.