The production of cereals in the Beja district has been severely affected by drought this year, with drops of "over 50%" recorded, the chairmen of a cooperative and a farmers' association revealed today.

Speaking to Lusa news agency, the president of the Beja and Brinches Agricultural Cooperative (CABB), Fernando Rosário, acknowledged that this was "a bad year" for cereals in the cooperative's area of influence, which covers mainly the Alentejo municipalities of Beja and Serpa.

"The drought has damaged us a lot," and "although the crops have not lost so much potential in the best land around Beja, as we evolve to slightly weaker land we start to see significant losses," he said.

Rosário added that in the so-called 'Beja clays', the crops held up, "but lost a large part" of their "productive potential".

"The meaning of this is that the crops were maintained, (...) but saw their productive potential reduced by practically half. In other words, it's a bad year", he added.

Further south, in the so-called Campo Branco, which covers the municipalities of Castro Verde, Almodôvar and Ourique and part of the municipalities of Aljustrel and Mértola, the situation is identical, at a time when many farmers are already harvesting.

"Yields were well below what would be reasonable and production, both of cereals and straw, was very low, as well as very reduced production of hay and hayseed," the president of the Association of Farmers of Campo Branco, José da Luz Pereira, told Lusa.

According to the leader of this association, based in Castro Verde, the fall in cereal production in this area "is much higher than 50%", and there are areas "where production will be very close to zero".

Apart from the fact that production is low, it also lacks quality, added José da Luz Pereira, who partially attributed the situation with the fact that there was no rain during the winter.

"At this age, and with all the years [I've been] farming, I don't remember this happening. It's all bare field and a very difficult year," he said.

In addition to the impact on cereal production, the CABB president also said he feared the effect of the current dry spell would have on watering livestock "during the summer", foreseeing a reduction in livestock numbers in the region.

"Every year farmers leave a part of the offspring of their livestock for breeding and this year, for the first time, we have found that most of our producers are not leaving replacement stock. This is a reflection of the difficulties we are going through", he concluded.

Last Thursday, the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) revealed that almost the whole of mainland Portugal was in severe drought at the end of May, the hottest and driest in 92 years.

At the end of the same month, there was also a significant decrease in the amount of water in the soil throughout the territory, particularly the regions of North, Centre, Tagus Valley, Alentejo, and the Algarve, where there are water values below 20%.