The crisis of Bomba Rice in Valencia has resulted in the highest price ever seen for this variety of rice. But that might not be the biggest problem – are we facing the demise of bomba rice?

Spain is one of the largest rice producers in Europe, its natural ecosystems, climate and hours of sunshine per year make Spain an ideal place for agricultural cultivation.

However, despite all the elements in its favour, last year saw one of the most important crises in the rice sector in living memory, causing all expectations in terms of prices to be exceeded this year. A series of factors such as climate change, drought, pests and inflation converged throughout Spain.

April 2022. Fields should be dry for ploughing, and waiting for rain to flood and start the planting process. In Valencia, late rains in April and May meant that the fields did not dry out until June, delaying rice cultivation.

In June, the rice fields of La Albufera de Valencia, where the bomba variety of rice is grown, looked like no one remembered them, still waiting to be flooded and planted. “We are 15 to 20 days late, we have never sown so late,” commented one of the farmers cultivating arroz bomba Olmeda Origenes.

The planting of all the varieties started very late due to the late rains, so the recently planted and still very fragile crops were exposed to the extreme heat of the summer months and more drought, giving rise to various problems. Different pests occurred and affected the crops in a devastating way. Among all the rice pests, the pyrycularia fungus, which particularly affected the bomba rice crop, is worth mentioning and this year has wiped out 50% of the crop and 70% in some cases. The appearance of this fungus is due to the growth of weeds and extreme temperatures.

The pyrycularia fungus is extremely difficult and costly to extinguish and farmers are severely restricted in dealing with this fungus as they are only allowed one product for aerial treatment which is very expensive and ineffective.

Restrictions on the use of fertilisers lead to greater difficulties in cultivation and more expensive solutions. As a result, crops are more exposed to pests, which is why the European proposal on plant protection products is of concern to the sector. In other countries, restrictions are more flexible and allow the use of products that are not authorised in Spain. It should also be borne in mind that the subsidies received by farmers are becoming less and less, resulting in lower profits.

This whole situation has led to an increase in rice prices and the danger of shortages. This year will see the highest rice prices ever due to several reasons. Drought and late rains are joined by inflation, the war in Ukraine, while the demand for bomba rice, one of the most sought-after on the market, continues to rise.

The rise in the price of bomba rice is also due to the increase in production costs, mainly due to the price of electricity and fuel, and the fertilisers used to combat the pests that occur during the harvest have tripled.

In short, bomba rice is not only facing an unprecedented price increase, but all these problems could lead to farmers opting to produce other rice varieties, which are easier to grow and less sensitive to pests. This will lead to a reduced supply of rice of differentiated quality and a loss of our identity.

Faced with this scenario, and with an eye on the 2023 season, which will begin in a few months’ time, the future of bomba rice in Spain is being viewed with uncertainty.

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Ferrer, C. (2022, November 15). “By the end of this year, we are going to have the highest price of rice ever.” Eat and drink. https://comerybeber.lasprovincias.es/portada/a-finales-de-este-ano-vamos-a-tener-el-precio-mas-alto-del-arroz-de-todos-los-tiempos/?ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Morán&nbsp, I. (2022, August 10). The most uncertain year for rice in Spain: drought in the south and late planting in Valencia. The vanguard. https://www.lavanguardia.com/comer/al-dia/20220810/8457418/sequia-arroz-valencia-delta-produccion.html

Solana, M. H. (2022, October 24). Drought reduces rice cultivation by up to 70% in Spain: “It will be lacking throughout Europe.” The objective. https://theobjective.com/economia/2022-10-24/arroz-sequia-espana-europa/