Do you know where you fruit and vegetables come from?
Take a look at the label and it’s as if we’re in a geography class. Countries large and small across the globe are exporting produce so we can all enjoy seasonal produce early or all year round.
Produce available in the UK is often from Spain. And more than likely it has come from Almeria, in Andalucía.
Spain’s south east corner is one of Europe’s most significant producers of fruit and vegetables. exporting internationally, especially to customers in Germany, France and UK .
Almeria, the eastern province of Andalucía is renowned for the expansive greenhouses that cover thousands of square kilometres. There semi-translucent plastic structures occupy a huge proportion of this semi-arid area of Spain also home to Europe’s only desert (where so many of the ’spaghetti’ westerns were filmed).
With one of Europe’s most stable climates, a vast mountain range providing shelter and water, it is probably little wonder so many greenhouses are nurturing life here. Visible even from space, this vast, glistening swath of plastic has become known as ‘Costa de Polythene’ or ‘Mar de plastico’ – sea of plastic.
Deep water holes and re-directed streams and rivers from the mountains feed the billion euro industry that in turn feeds us. Much is already organic or going organic, as Europe demands healthier produce.
Yetaking a look from the aircraft as we flew into Malaga today (click on the image above), it’s obvious that there is a huge environmental and aesthetic price to pay for those plump tomatoes, glossy peppers and juicy, sweet cucumbers so abundantly available in the supermarkets. Are these plantations really ‘green’? The ecological impact of all-year growing of produce in a desert area must be significant.
Thankfully much of Almeria’s coast is protected. Although always under threat from unscrupulous developers supported by corrupt local politicians, the natural park of Cabo de Gata is truly beautiful and unique in Europe. There are charming, small scale hotels and B & Bs, hidden coves and the sea is gloriously clear. It is well worth a visit, despite that fact that if you arrive by car you most probably have to drive for a few hours through the featureless landscape of plastic greenhouses.