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Rosalía: ‘If success ends up breaking me, well, that’s life’ | Culture

Something is glinting in the middle of Rosalía’s smile. It looks like a red heart, but when you get closer you can see the delicate wings: it’s a butterfly. Rosalía, born 29 years ago in Sant Cugat del Vallès, a town north of Barcelona, smiles spontaneously on this Monday morning in February. She has been home for nearly two weeks, and preparations for the release of her new and long-awaited album Motomami are in full swing ahead of the March 18 release date.

She is on time. The black van with tinted windows parks in the studios of an industrial building in Barcelona, and she gets out with her partner, Rauw Alejandro. No one was expecting the Puerto Rican singer to be there, but no one had noticed that it was Valentine’s Day either. He gets out first, extending an arm and taking her by the hand, helping her out of the vehicle. She is wearing a baggy pink sweatshirt, light coloured jeans and low white snow boots with fur trim. He sports a black tracksuit and green sneakers, and takes care of the suitcases.

Rauw Alejandro will wait out the five-hour session calmly, scrolling on his phone. He is polite and friendly, but does not want to talk about anything Rosalía related. Her little sister Pilar, known as Pili, is always by her side, one of her closest collaborators and an individual she defines as a “visual artist.” “When we were little, we used to draw together and then make dresses. We would cut fabric together. We still do it,” says Rosalía. Pili, who doesn’t want to talk much either, keeps an eye on everything and knows how to get the best out of her little sister, who moves easily through the photo shoot.

Rosalía poses for a photo session in February 2022.
Rosalía poses for a photo session in February 2022.Gorka Postigo

Rosalía has always set her own pace. She has done it since she arrived at the Taller de Músics music school in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood aged 16, where founder Lluís Cabrera discovered “a great talent”. An “insatiable” student who played electric guitar and piano, knew jazz and spoke good English, she got into flamenco after listening to Spanish legend Camarón in a friend’s car at the park. “It was super old fashioned and at the same time it was the most modern thing we had heard in 40 years,” Cabrera recalls. Rosalía went on to the Escuela Superior de Música de Cataluña institution and was the top student in flamenco singing. Her final project became El Mal Querer.

I was very excited that this project was focused. I wanted the album to be like when a photographer captures a moment

Three years after that a smash hit that revolutionized Spanish music and catapulted the singer to international fame, all eyes are on her once again. “You’re never late if you go at your own pace,” she remarks. This is how it works: she is a global star, who calculates every movement with huge advertising and promotional campaigns. In a few days she will appear on Saturday Night Live. But she is also an artist capable of transforming herself at an astonishing speed to the needs of every genre she plays. On her new record, Motomami, she goes on an interesting journey with her own voice in different registers. “There are people who think that music can be made by algorithms. One doesn’t make a lyric, distort a voice or choose an asymmetrical structure thinking about numbers. It’s done for the feeling. You look for emotion,” she says.

Lights, cameras, wardrobe, background music, catering… There’s not a moment of peace in this warehouse. Rosalía greets us with two kisses and the first thing she does is talk about the new album, the result of three years of work. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been a long time, just the amount of time needed,” she says, while clearly aware of the pressure on her shoulders. Since El Mal Querer, she has joined Sony’s Columbia Records label, whose stable of artists also includes Adele, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé.

Rosalía's new album is due out on March 18.
Rosalía’s new album is due out on March 18.Gorka Postigo

For a Spanish singer, it’s unusual to say the least. Rosa Lagarrigue, director of Spain’s RLM agency, explains: “I think it is very brave of Rosalía and Columbia. I think it was a mixture of chance and luck, but you have to know how to grab luck and how to have the courage to take advantage of it. She has benefited a lot from this agreement and has proven to be more than worthy of the investments made in her. Her career has just taken off and it will be interesting to see where it takes her.”

Rosalía says she is taking it one step at a time. But between one album and another, she has kept up a steady stream of hits, collaborating with artists such as J Balvin, Travis Scott and Ozuna, and has guested with the likes of Billie Eilish, Bad Bunny, The Weeknd and Tokischa. But for a world attached to single hits, Motomami is not a compilation, but an ambitious work of 16 songs about Rosalía’s journey over the past three years. “I was very excited that this project was focused. I wanted the album to be like when a photographer captures a moment. Something honest. I was looking for a way to capture my moment,” she says.

Rosalía’s moment just keeps growing. “I try to keep myself constantly learning and developing. It’s me and the music,” she says. “Without the main idea, without the need, without the desire, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the time, the energy, the dedication, it is impossible that I would have made this album. It makes me laugh that anyone could think otherwise.”

Pedro G. Romero, an influential researcher of flamenco, popular culture and the artistic avant-garde, and the person who recommended the 14th century book that inspired El Mal Querer, remembers how she turned a slightly forgotten genre on its head. “She always said that if Beyoncé or Rihanna could do what they did with soul and blues to turn them into pop, why couldn’t she do the same with flamenco?” She is conscious that not everyone has the space to explore and be hugely popular at the same time. “For me the question is, ‘Wow, did you notice what’s not being talked about?’ There are a lot of women who don’t get the spotlight. There’s Björk, a fabulous artist, who had to fight [to be heard]. There are a lot of women creators who don’t get the credit they deserve. It’s a shame,” she notes.

Gorka Postigo
Gorka Postigo

Judeline, a 19-year-old Spanish electrosoul artist, is part of a new generation for whom Rosalía is “a very big inspiration”. “She has paved the way for a lot of people, showing that you can be young and make it big with a different sound and a different way of being. The spotlight is on Spain right now from other parts of the world thanks to her. She knew how to act to reach the US without being mainstream”. Romero agrees: “Many young people have realized that they can take off their provincial overalls and that they don’t have to appear on Radio Olé.”

The butterfly is the symbol of Motomami. “A butterfly, I transform myself,” she sings in Saoko, the song that opens the album and that in one month accumulated about 16 million plays on Spotify and as many on YouTube. As David Rodríguez, who worked on the album, says: “she made the decision to transform herself as an artist. A lot of people were maybe counting on El Mal Querer 2. She had a vision to do something different and new.”

This transformation has been anticipated since that first reggaeton track with J Balvin, Con Altura. She defends herself when accused of moving away from her flamenco roots. Bulerías is the only flamenco song on Motomami, and she draws a link between earlier reggaeton influences.

“Reggaeton is part of my adolescence. In the end, my career is going to be a love letter to the styles of music I love. In the future I will add whatever I come across. Flamenco is something important and my music is very grateful to it, but also to other styles. In music there is no right and wrong, good or bad. What matters is that the music reflects me.” Reggaeton, she adds, doesn’t ask for forgiveness or permission. “That’s why I thought it was a perfect fit for Motomami. In the end, it’s very direct and raw music, and people are not used to celebrating women who speak like that.”

The spotlights illuminate Rosalía’s face, which she covers with her hands, partially revealing the twinkling butterfly in her teeth. Her characteristic extra-long false nails are more moderate today, and her jet black hair flutters with her movements. Her body language is extraordinarily powerful and, beyond the aura of fame she exhibits a lot of tenderness. Rosalía naturally introduces words from other languages or dialects, which seemed to cause some anger online when she released 15 seconds of the song Hentai. “I’m exposed to friends from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the US… I celebrate it. The day it doesn’t happen to me I’m going to worry.”

Music critic Diego A. Manrique thinks that what made her special might have been swallowed up by these transatlantic influences. “She was like no one else. In Motomami she is part of a Caribbean trend and her trademark is diluted,” he opines.

Gorka Postigo
Gorka Postigo

For the butterfly to be born, a caterpillar must have existed before. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic caught Rosalía in Miami, in lockdown in the house of her manager, Rebeca León. During the first few weeks of restrictions she worked in a home recording studio. She had never been away from her family for so long.

The album is like a rollercoaster. It goes up and down. That’s how I feel sometimes

“The pandemic was very hard. I was almost away from my family for two years,” she says. “I was away from the neighborhood where I grew up. Away from my old friends. Far away from everything. I did it to fully commit to my record. It was hard.” She holds one’s gaze, and at times it seems as if she is studying you. The look pierces through, until she drops her eyes to describe even harder moments. “I set deadlines and I never reached them. Then my return home was delayed. There were moments when I was really alone.”

She realized how much she missed her family. “I was working 15 or 16 hours a day, but it was really hard. I had a really hard time.” From days in Los Angeles, she confesses, sprung G3, an emotional ballad where she sings, “I’m somewhere I wouldn’t take you.” The song ends with an audio message from her grandmother, also named Rosalía, where she says in Catalan that “family comes first”. Her mother inspired the new album’s title. “My mother has always ridden a motorcycle and I have a very clear image of that. That’s why I’ve been riding a motorcycle for years. I am a motomami because my mother was a motomami, and so was her mother.”

She says the album’s name plays on “duality.” Moto in Japanese means “strong” and relates to “aggression”. Mami refers to “fragility”. “The album is like a rollercoaster. It goes up and down. That’s how I feel sometimes.” She ends the album with Sakura, Japanese cherry blossom, with links to spring and femininity. The lyrics are a reflection on the possibility of breaking. “There’s only a risk if there’s something to lose,” she sings. She recalls the first piece of advice her mother gave her. “She told me, whatever I do in life, go for it full on. I don’t remember her words exactly, but I remember how they sounded. She told me that I had to put my all into it.” Before the photo session begins, she admits she is ready for things to get too tough to handle. “This environment is very hostile. It’s difficult to stay in the center of it. For these three years I have searched for my center. If success ends up breaking me over the years, well, that’s life and that’s the journey. Life and death are very close to each other.”

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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— By Darren Wilson, Team VoiceOfEU.com

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Can’t Afford A House In UK? Move To Germany!

Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud has told first time buyers if they can’t afford to buy a house ‘move to Germany’.

The TV presenter advised young people looking to get on the property ladder to abandon their hopes of buying a house in the UK and instead ‘move to another country where the housing market is healthy’.

He told the news website JOE that almost every other North European country and Canada have got ‘really healthy markets, lots of diverse opportunities, lots of diverse offers and it isn’t hugely expensive’.

The 64-year-old said: ‘My advice is move to Germany, maybe that’s the way forward.’

McCloud also took aim at ‘immoral’ housing developers, who he claims now make on average £68,000 profit per house or per flat, compared to 2009, when the figure was ten times less.

Have YOU moved to Germany? Email chris.matthews@mailonline.co.uk

Houses in Germany costs just £232,941 on average. Meanwhile, a pint of beer costs just £2.14 in Germany, while on average in England a pint is £4.21

Houses in Germany costs just £232,941 on average. Meanwhile, a pint of beer costs just £2.14 in Germany, while on average in England a pint is £4.21

Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud who has told first time buyers if they can't afford to buy a house 'move to Germany'

Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud who has told first time buyers if they can’t afford to buy a house ‘move to Germany’

The TV presenter (pictured) advised young people looking to 'move to another country where the housing market is healthy'

The TV presenter (pictured) advised young people looking to ‘move to another country where the housing market is healthy’

First-time buyers purchased 33% of homes sold in the UK so far this year, marking an all-time high

First-time buyers purchased 33% of homes sold in the UK so far this year, marking an all-time high

Houses of a residential area are seen from above in Frankfurt, Germany (File image)

Houses of a residential area are seen from above in Frankfurt, Germany (File image)

McCloud also took aim at 'immoral' housing developers, who he claims now make on average £68,000 profit per house or per flat, compared to 2009, when the figure was ten times less. Pictured: Homes along a street in London (File image)

McCloud also took aim at ‘immoral’ housing developers, who he claims now make on average £68,000 profit per house or per flat, compared to 2009, when the figure was ten times less. Pictured: Homes along a street in London (File image)

He claimed the average profit ‘big housing developers’ now make every time they sell a house or flat was ‘about £68,000’, ten times what it was in 2009.

McCloud added: ‘They’ve shifted their focus from volume and meeting government targets to the profit they deliver to their shareholders.

‘Persimmon, the year before last made £1.1 billion of profit for their shareholders, 25 per cent of their turnover.

‘I’ve only got one word for it and I think it’s immoral.’

Speaking about the state of the UK housing market, McCloud said: ‘I look at the UK market and I see nothing good here.

‘I look at what’s happening in Germany, Holland, Netherlands, Denmark, Scandinavia, I look at other, almost every other North European country and Canada – they’ve got really healthy markets, lots of diverse opportunities, lots of diverse offers and it isn’t hugely expensive.’

Foreigners can buy properties in Germany with relative ease.

Even since Brexit, people from non-EU countries can borrow up to 60 per cent mortgages.

Not all banks offer expats mortgages. DKB and Santander are two that do but having even a temporary residence may improve a person’s chances.

An extensive report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) concluded that Britain’s development sector is ‘warped by decades of housing market volatility, the departure of local authorities from the housebuilding sphere, and cuts to capital grant that collectively could have insulated the development market from significant shocks’.

The report claims that ‘the UK has both a pro-cyclical housing and development marke’.

The IPPR said: 'Germany has traditionally kept much tighter controls on mortgage lending, meaning that in order to access home ownership, German households have had to save up for longer periods of time than their British counterparts'

The IPPR said: ‘Germany has traditionally kept much tighter controls on mortgage lending, meaning that in order to access home ownership, German households have had to save up for longer periods of time than their British counterparts’

House prices in Germany have historically been far more stable than those in Britain

House prices in Germany have historically been far more stable than those in Britain

England's trend of ownership is in stark contrast to Germany, where many more people rent

England’s trend of ownership is in stark contrast to Germany, where many more people rent

In Germany, the professional sector of people and companies that own property to let it out, is much more invested in the market (37 per cent) than in the UK (18 per cent)

In Germany, the professional sector of people and companies that own property to let it out, is much more invested in the market (37 per cent) than in the UK (18 per cent)

Traditionally, Germany has a much higher rate of housebuilding compared to the UK

Traditionally, Germany has a much higher rate of housebuilding compared to the UK

It added: ‘By contrast, Germany is in a stronger position: its mortgage market has been more tightly regulated and consequently its market (and economy) is less vulnerable to economic downturns; and housing construction is undertaken by a far greater number of actors, including large housebuilders but also, crucially, many smaller, regionally based actors and a significant not-for-profit sector (both within and outside public ownership).

‘The two countries utilise the powers of government in quite different ways. In Germany, although private enterprise is crucial in housing finance, housing development and management of stock, the state, locally and nationally, plays a far more ‘interventionist’ role – in regulation (for instance, of rents and of the mortgage market), in land assembly, and in housing development itself (albeit often through locally owned companies).

‘However, in the UK, although the parameters of policy are set by government, the trend is towards stepping back the role of the state in housing provision, and then becoming active when markets cannot achieve satisfactory outcomes (for instance by providing mortgage guarantees, or through the provision of housing benefit to households unable to afford their rent).’

The latest Nationwide house price index showed house prices fell slightly in March, with a 0.2 per cent decline in the average property value.

The monthly decline was down to seasonal adjustment – which aims to smooth out months that are typically more and less active – whereas the non-adjusted average house price actually rose slightly from £260,420 in February to £261,14 in March.

It means the typical home, according to Nationwide’s data, has edged up 1.6 per cent annually, with headline figures dragged back by southern England’s stuttering property market.

On the same day, Halifax also reported property prices fell in March, reflecting the first monthly fall since September 2023.

The major mortgage lender revealed the average home price fell 1 per cent last month, following five consecutive months of rises.

Despite reports’ focus on headline house price figures, the UK housing market doesn’t just move as one.

A graph showing the average percentage growth in in house prices across the UK

A graph showing the average percentage growth in in house prices across the UK

This map of annual house price changes across the UK shows the North-South divide. House prices are rising in the north and falling in the south

This map of annual house price changes across the UK shows the North-South divide. House prices are rising in the north and falling in the south

It is made up of thousands of local markets that will all be performing differently from one another.

These differences can even be seen at a regional level where there is evidence of a North-South divide opening up. Prices are generally rising in the North and falling in the South.

The average house price during the first three months of 2024 in Northern Ireland, for example, is up 4.6 per cent year-on-year, according to Nationwide.

Prices in Scotland are 3.7 per cent higher over the past three months than they were during the same period in 2023.

And in the North of England the average home is up 4 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year.

Prices in the South West are down 1.7 per cent compared to this time last year and prices in East Anglia are 1.3 per cent lower.

Housing experts have claimed that ‘predatory’ investment funds are taking advantage of the British housing market, keeping families paying rent for longer.

There was £1.3billion of private investment in British new builds last year and almost two fifths came from American funds.

Housing expert David Hall told MailOnline: ‘It’s no surprise at all that it’s a business model for a lot of the funds and pension funds and gives them some semblance of certainty and assurance.

‘It is going to price people out of the market. These are investment forums that are essentially vultures. They’re not social housing buddies. They’re not charities. They’re predators.

‘They’re doing nothing wrong. They’re allowed to do it. The market is wide open for predators to come in, wide open for the market to be manipulated.

Housing charity Acorn’s chief Nick Ballard told MailOnline: ‘Britain’s housing crisis should be a source of national shame.

‘Rising homelessness, 1.3 million families on council housing waiting lists and millions condemned to living in poor quality, insecure and expensive private rented accommodation are problems having a very real negative impact on people’s lives, health and on society as a whole.

‘House prices are out of reach for many and have been for years. Rising rents and the cost of living crisis mean people are finding it harder and harder to save to put down a deposit.

‘Policies of successive Governments have led to 1.5 million council houses sold or demolished and not replaced, so these are no longer a viable option for most.

‘House building alone, particularly build-to-rent properties which will siphon money to US investment companies, will not solve the housing crisis.

‘The Government must embark on a serious building programme for social homes, to address the shortage of housing, to bring down rental prices and to provide safe, secure and stable homes that can become the foundation of happy and healthy lives.’

As the average price of a London home nears the £1million mark, thousands of homeowners are ditching the capital.

Have YOU moved to Germany?

Instead of buying in London, homeowners are flocking to more affordable towns that are often in the north of Britain, MailOnline previously revealed.

Schemes like the Help To Buy ISA may have worked a decade ago but since savers can only receive a government bonus if they buy under £450,001, resources such as this have also been priced out.

The average house in the capital costs £733,000 but the average London salary is only £44,000 and most mortgages are capped at 4.5 times that, amounting to just £198,000.

The cheapest place to buy a home is in Middlehaven (TS2), in North Yorkshire, where an average house costs just £49,833.

In fact, Yorkshire postcodes make up the top four cheapest places to buy, with Bradford (BD1), Middlesbrough (TS1) and Brambles Farm (TS3) all coming in with prices under £85,000.

Shildon (DL4), in County Durham is the fifth cheapest, with homes selling for an average of just £86,993.

Linz Darlington, the boss of leasehold extension experts Homehold, told MailOnline: ‘You can seek a better and more affordable quality of life elsewhere.

‘Greater flexibility around working from home has made making a cross-country move more accessible for many.’

Yet while many people are considering leaving the capital, not all postcodes outside of London are as affordable.

In fact, some are even approaching London property prices.

Cobham (KT11), in Surrey, was the most dear, with the average home selling for a shopping £1.4million.

Close behind was Beaconsfield (HP9), in Buckinghamshire, where homes go for £1.3million.

Mr Darlington added: ‘Increasingly buyers are looking for property outside of London and the South East — and so they should be.

‘While these areas may be the preference of many, as a proposition they are clearly overpriced.

‘Leasehold flats have historically been the ”first rung on the ladder” for many house-buyers in London and the South East, but constant woes from cladding issues, outrageous service charges and spiralling ground rents make these an ever less attractive proposition.

‘Issues with flat ownership are compounded by the fact the age of first time buyers has been increasing, which means people are needing for larger, family friendly properties for their first homes.’


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Spain throws away 400,000 tons of lemons: ‘Production has got out of hand’

According to the latest estimates provided by the Spanish agricultural union COAG, in the 2023-2024 season, around 400,000 tons of lemons cannot be sold and will go to waste — about 27% of the planned production. Losses from this massive waste are estimated at €120 million ($129 million). Spanish farmers have blamed the problem on various factors: lemons entering the European Union from Turkey, Egypt, Argentina, and South Africa; investment funds altering the market; supermarkets that only want aesthetically perfect fruit; the rise in pests; climatic adversities… However, some in the sector openly recognize that the main reason for the disaster is the disproportionate rise in the number of hectares cultivating lemons on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

One of these critics is the World Citrus Organization (WCO), which cites the excessive rise of lemon crops in Spain as the main cause for the disaster. The WCO does not understand why the entry of foreign lemons is criticized when Spanish lemons are found across Europe. “Spain is the leader in the market, it is the one that controls the situation, it is always easy to blame someone else, but we must accept that we are in markets in which there must be a minimum level of competition,” WCO Secretary General Philippe Binard tells EL PAÍS by phone. “Let’s look at what happened with the tractor demonstrations in Europe, our headquarters are in Brussels, the Belgians complained about the Dutch, the French about the Spanish, the Spanish about the Moroccans….”

The Interprofessional Association of Lemon and Grapefruit (Ailimpo) — which represents the producers, cooperatives, exporters and the processing industry of the lemon sector in Spain — has not only distanced itself from the criticism of foreign lemons, it has also admitted that lemon cultivation needs to be reduced in Spain to rebalance supply and demand. Ailimpo proposes a different path to what was seen in some of the tractor protests: apart from tax reductions, improvements in agricultural insurance and promoting increased consumption, it is also committed to a more environmentally friendly model — it supports regenerative agriculture or the management of lemon farms as forests as a means of generating carbon and biodiversity credits.

For José Antonio García, director of Ailimpo, there is no doubt where the problem lies: “Production has got out of hand,” he says. “The data speak very clearly. The cultivation area has gone from 36,000 hectares eight years ago to nearly 53,000 hectares today.” He explains that lemon farmers decided to plant more trees due to the “very striking returns” on the crop. This move prompted other investors to get involved. “In the end, it is an exercise in simple mathematics. If the market is able to absorb 1.1 million tons of lemons, and the estimated production for this season is 1.5 million, there are 400,000 tons that are going to stay in the fields.”

agricultores Málaga Limón
Farmers throw lemons at a protest in Malaga last March.Daniel Pérez (EFE)

Pedro Gomáriz, head of citrus at COAG, acknowledges the excess production in the country, but says it is one of many factors. “The exaggerated amount of lemon from third countries that is entering the European Union is one of the big factors, it is unfair competition, because they are also entering with [phytosanitary] products that are not allowed here, and on top of that they are entering with pests that are not hitting us,” says the farmer, whose arguments have so far not been proven. “They are coming from Turkey, South Africa, Egypt, Argentina. They are flooding the European market with lemons that compete with ours, but without having to meet the same standards as us, treated with products that we do not have here, with much cheaper labor and often subsidized by the state,” insists Gomáriz.

While these complaints are common, the data on lemon consumption in the EU analyzed by Ailimpo, between October 2023 and March 2024, shows a quite different situation. In those six months, the total demand for these citrus fruits in the EU (excluding domestic consumption in Italy and Spain) was 403,000 tons, of which 302,000 came from Spanish fields, while the rest — 87,000 tons — came from Turkey. In other words, three out of every four lemons consumed in EU countries in this period were grown in Spain. According to Ailimpo, these figures are also similar to what was recorded in previous years, meaning they are unlikely to have played a significant role in the disaster of the current lemon season, which runs from September to June.

Gomáriz also blames the disaster on supermarkets’ “oligopolistic” practices, decisions by investment groups, and weather events, while downplaying the importance of the spike in lemon cultivation. “The life of a lemon tree is like a Gauss bell. Its harvest increases, at 15 to 20 years it reaches its maximum and from 20 onwards it begins to decrease. So, of course, there is a lot of new lemon destined for the replacement of plantations,” he says.

“This is the elephant in the room that no one wants to see,” says García, who notes that in the last eight years, seven million lemon tree seedlings have been sold in nurseries in the country. “These are really very typical dynamics of the agricultural sector. We have seen it in other products such as the persimmon, we are seeing it with the pistachio, with the almond tree, they are cycles where the farmer sees profitability in the crop and there is an explosion of cultivation.” García acknowledges that other factors are at play, but believes this is the biggest reason for the current disaster. “It is true that there are investment funds involved in the lemon sector, but they have not invested a single euro in new plantations,” he says.

For Ailimpo, what’s most important right now is to address the losses of this disastrous season. But the organization also believes that green measures are key to ensuring long-term economic profitability. “We have closely followed the development of regenerative agriculture in citrus in California, and we believe that the future really lies there,” says García. He explains that his organization is trying to design a system of green practices to improve CO₂ absorption, which will allow the sector to generate carbon credits. “It seems like science fiction, but it is already working in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, where agricultural activity is also generating biodiversity credits. Because when we think about biodiversity, we think about lizards, birds, bees, but we always forget what biodiversity there is in the soil.”

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