Agriculture & Fishing

October 7, 2012 | By More

Farming

 

There is a special technique used by local farmers. Despite the volcanic soil there is abundant agricultural activity still at Lanzarote. To add to the problems of the volcanic soil are the woes of very little rain fall and a small underground wáter table. Lanzarote only receives 14 cms of rain annually. The locals have innovated to preserve the wáter and moisture by using  a special technique for the soil to retain the moisture in the picon, (the black volcanic soil) found in abundance on the island.

 

Aloe Vera Farm

 

In old times the farmers would use camels for ploughing their fields. Now however only about 5 % still use camel the balance 95 % used tractors. Sometimes tractors can complicate matters as the fragile picon can get damaged ore ven destroyed.  In olden times Lanzarote ´s agriculture was basic and they cultivated barley – from which they made gofio (a type of course flour). This together with fish and meat was their staple food.

Today, onions are the islands chief crop with the majority exported to mainland Spain, although Lanzarote onions also are exported to U.K., Netherland and Germany. Lanzarote exports more than three times as many onions as it consumes. Lanzarote also grows red and white potatoes, known locally as batatas or boniatos which are also exported,  Apart from the above a whole range of green vegetables, melons, pumpkins including the delicious spinach and tobacco are grown in Lanzarote. Curiously unlike the other islands of Canary Islands no banana is grown in Lanzarote. Recently there are attempts being made to produce pineapples in Lanzarote too.

 

Cochineal Beetle Production

 

You´d be surprised to know that the drink Campari, gets its deep red colour from cochineal, a dye which is extracted from a species of crushed beetle found extensively on Lanzarote. Thousands of female cochineal beetles are nurtured on the leaves of cacti in Lanzarote northern villages of Mala and Guatiza. The cactus are grown for the cultivation of the beetles.

The parasitic beetle, which leads a relatively stationary existence, obtains its nutrients from sucking juices from the cactus leaves. The workers in the cactus fields of Mala and Guatiza, many of whom are women, ensure that the insects are spread out among the plants. After two to three months, the insects reach maximum size and are then ready for the harvest.

The harvest is carried out by carefully scraping off the beetles from the cactus leaves with a large spoon like tool. The gatherers wear thick gloves to protect their hands from beetle bites and pricks. The beetles, which look white on the leaves are dropped into special boxes which kill the beetle as also separate the beetles from unwanted stalks and other impurities.

Farmers dry the cochineal beetles in the sun before packing them in sacks for export. Being non toxic, cochineal, the extracted dye, which is also called carmine, is used widely in industry as a colouring for a wide  range of products including lipstick, sweets, toothpaste, and, of course, Campari.

As Lanzarote has no meadows, you will not find any cattle or sheep here, but surprisingly there are goats on the island, which were formerly farmed mainly for their milk, but nowadays this milk is largely used for cheese production.

 

Fishing

 

Fishing was one of the traditional industries until the middle of the 20th century at Lanzarote. With abundant fishing grounds between the east of the island and the African coast fishing has always been a traditional mainstay of Lanzarote’s economy. Arrecife is the second largest fishing and processing port at the Canary Islands, where large quantities of sardines, sea bass and parrot fish are processed. Sea salt production was another of the major industry at the same time. The salt was used to preserve the fish caught almost 10,000 tons of salt was produced at the peak.

In the late 20th century with automation and proper refrigeration facilities the production of salt decreased considerably and reached to around 2,000 tons per annum today. A small part of the production is still sold as high quality table salt and each year. During the Corpus Christi festival in June, tons of dyed salt are traditionally used to decorate the streets and squares of Arrecife.

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