The socioeconomic impact of truffle cultivation in rural Spain
Alexander, Susan J.
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The Socioeconomic Impact of Truffle Cultivation in Rural Spain. Commercial black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) plantations have been promoted in Europe with the intention of benefiting rural economies while conserving biodiversity through the expansion of oak woodlands. In this context, a socioeconomic
study was conducted around the town of Sarrión in eastern Spain, where government subsidies have supported oak reforestation and truffle cultivation in unproductive hilly areas since 1987. Currently there are about 4,500 ha of truffle orchards in the surrounding county and 530 members in the local truffle association, which has provided a key forum for truffle cultivators to share technical, financial and administrative experiences. Structured interviews were carried out in 2002 with a number of orchard owners, as well as representatives of financial and governmental institutions. Truffles, which are harvested using trained dogs, typically fetch local cultivators average prices of 220–670 EUR/kg, although retail prices of high-quality specimens may reach twice this amount. In addition to the direct economic impact, an increase in local land prices was also documented, as well as a tendency for continued expansion of truffle orchards, and thus oak reforestation. In conclusion, the promotion of truffle cultivation through autonomous community and provincial government subsidies, in conjunction with support by local banks, a dedicated local truffle association, and growing interest on behalf of local farmers, seems to have achieved the mutual goals of biodiversity conservation and improving the rural economy in this region of Spain.