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Algarrobas

Earlier this month, the annual algarroba harvest started in Mallorca. The fruit of the algarrobo tree (Ceratonia siliqua) is better known to us as the carob fruit or St. John’s Bread. In September and October, Mallorcan farmers used to beat the dark brown carob beans off their trees with long sticks. In the 21st century, this annual activity has become more and more neglected. Manpower is too expensive nowadays in Mallorca and the harvest is not worth the farmer’s effort any longer, unless he does the job himself.

The other day, I saw an old farmer near Llucmajor beating the carob trees. He was in the company of two young men, possibly immigrants from South America, helping him gather the harvest into large container bags holding approximately 750 kg each. They are likely to fetch no more than 18 cents per kilo at the dry fruit dealer’s almacen (warehouse). That’s about 135 € per bag, or just over 800 € for a days work. Taking away 200 € for paid labour and 50 € for transport, the pagès (farmer) will have made 550 € for 10 hours of hard work, a year’s rent for the use of the farm, quite a bit of work ploughing the land plus a lot of headache. That’s not the way to get rich quick, or is it? And that’s exactly the reason why the young generation does not want to know about algarrobas any more, or indeed about farming in general.

The photos were taken near Llucmajor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 6th, 2011. The time was 13:30:05 and 13:30:57, respectively.

3 replies »

    • no, ana,
      it’s not quite so easy. a farmer has to tend the land all year long, not just one day per year. the wall or fence has to be maintained, storm damage on the trees has to be rectified, the earth needs tilling, airing and fertilizing. in short, the farmer needs a tractor, a chainsaw, a horse, a plough and a number of tools. i expect that apart from the cost involved in the harvest, the annual expense to maintain a smallholding probably amounts to a few hundred euros plus about 50 hours of work, in addition to the 30 hours of harvest. believe me, the numbers do not add up. if you consider the cost of living having gone up about thirty percent over the last five year, here in mallorca, i. e. taxes, iva, petrol, chemicals etc., whereas the price for the algarroba has stayed stagnant at 18 cents for the last few years, i would not speak of a worthwhile return on investment. the farmer only does it because he has done it all his life; his son is not willing to do it any longer. what will we eat tomorrow when there will be no farmers to seed, to take care of the land and grow the crop that we want to eat?
      food for thought.
      thanks anyway.
      klaus

  1. I too saw a farmer and helper gathering carobs whilst driving from Santanyi to Palma today.
    If one Googles Carobs there are so many sites extolling their benefits. There seems to be various health products using carob instead of chocolate. We tried chewing a pod from one of our trees the other day and they are quite a delicious flavour, somewhat like a tough chocolaty date. I was trying to find out how to use them but it all sounds very hard work to make carob powder in the kitchen. Pity because their content seems to be very healthy.
    Would be great if they became a real cash crop for the farmers here.
    Sylvia, Es Llombards

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