9 Feb, 2024 @ 12:00
1 min read

Paella no more? Farmers in Spain warn rice used to make the iconic dish could ‘disappear’ due to EU rules

AN iconic Spanish dish could be under threat as farmers warn paella rice could ‘disappear’ due to EU regulations. 

One of Spain’s most emblematic dishes could be under threat as farmer protests sweep the country. Photo by Sandra Wei on Unsplash

READ MORE: Why are farmers striking in Spain and when will they stop?

The rice variety used to make the typical lunchtime meal, bomba rice, could be at peril after the European Union have banned a pesticide Spanish farmers claim they rely upon to cultivate the grain. 

The chemical is said to stop rice plants growing a fungus which causes rice blast disease, which can lead to ‘total crop failure’. 

Three rice growers in the Valencia region have claimed their harvest has been half the 10 year average in 2023 as a result of the Pyricularia fungus. 

Miguel Minguet told Reuters the rice variety, which is almost exclusively found in Spain, is ‘very likely to disappear’. 

“Our crop is going to be lost to regulations,” he claimed. 

Major exporters still use the pesticide in Brazil, India and Cambodia. 

It comes as farmers stage protests across Europe over claims they let outside competitors have an advantage over EU farmers by letting them use the chemical. 

The clashes have exposed Brussel’s struggles to balance sustainability policies with providing self-sufficient food production. 

President Ursula von de Leyen has even proposed to withdraw the plan to halve the use of pesticides. 

Known as tricyclazole, the EU stopped authorising the chemical because it could be harmful to human health. 

It has been used for some 40 years to combat the fungus in Valencia’s wetlands. 

Angry farmers claim the EU has one set of rules for local producers and another for imported goods, allowing them to carry traces of the potentially harmful pesticide. 

According to the European Green Deal, all imported goods should ‘respect’ EU standards for chemical residue, ensuring food is ‘safe for human consumption’. 

Cultivators are still permitted to use two other pesticides to combat the fungus. 

However, these are known to filter into the ecosystem and affect the local shrimp population. 

Rice is particularly vulnerable to disease and funguses easily spread between fields. 

The decline in bomba rice production has led to shortages in supermarkets and rising prices, which have doubled in the last three years. 

A bag of paella rice now costs up to €5 in some supermarkets. 

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Yzabelle Bostyn

After spending much of her childhood in Andalucia and adulthood between Barcelona and Latin America, Yzabelle has settled in the Costa del Sol to put her NCTJ & Journalism Masters to good use. She is particularly interested in travel, vegan food and has been leading the Olive Press Nolotil campaign. Have a story? email yzabelle@theolivepress.es

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