Around our Finca the holm oaks are producing their annual acorn harvest elsewhere in Spain the harvest is failing.....
The trees, which for generations have provided Iberian pigs with the rich acorn diet necessary to ensure the succulent texture of Jamon Iberico, are under attack from a strain of phytophthora, a fungus with its origins in Australia.
The fungus attacks the roots of the trees, choking off a water supply that has been made scarce by successive years of drought.Experts have discovered at least 500 serious outbreaks of the disease in the pastures of south-western Spain and predict that the situation will worsen unless a widespread forest management programme is introduced."The soil has been eroded, the droughts are getting longer, and air pollution is worsening - all factors contributing to the spread of the plague," explained Gerardo Moreno, a biology professor at the
"The problem is compounded by the fact that the orchards have been over-exploited, leaving little room for regeneration," he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais. Producers of the Spanish product, which can fetch up to 1,500 euros (£1,380) for the very best quality leg of ham, fear their livelihood is at risk.
Pigs bred for Jamon Belota are raised free range in the oak orchards, gorging themselves on acorns that produce the rich flavour and oily texture for which the meat is known."There are huge areas of trees which have been seriously damaged," said Alejandro Hernandez Matamoros, whose family breeds 500 pigs annually in
"So many people rely on this industry that we have to find a solution," he said. "Without acorns, there can be no pigs."