Voracious bunnies mean bad news for Vinalopó grape harvest

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THE grape harvest at risk

WINEGROWERS in the Vinalopó region are desperately battling voracious rabbits that are destroying the grape crop.
At night, there are hundreds of rabbits roaming the vineyards eating the vines and many of them litter the roadsides having been hit by passing vehicles.
Farmers estimate that up to 78 per cent of the crop is at risk of destruction if a successful cull is not carried out urgently.
President of the Agricultural Cooperative of San Ramon Agost, Maria Lopez, explained that the problem has become out of control – the rabbits eat the branch and also any new vines planted to replace those destroyed and an extension of the hunting season seems to have had no effect. Agricultural workers are now demanding that hunting restrictions are lifted completely to allow an open season on rabbits until the situation improves.
To make matters worse the extreme heat in recent weeks killed 25 per cent of the crop with temperatures exceeding 40º charring the grapes on the vine.
In Aspe the Safety Board has deployed police patrols to protect the early grape harvest. Newly bagged to protect it from the elements, the grape crop is still at risk of a more human threat – thieving. The local Agricultural Council has therefore brought forward the scheduled police presence planned for September to August.
The grapes stolen are transported in vans to be sold on the black market by the roadside and on the beaches, sometimes by rogue traders in local markets and the high incidence of theft causes huge losses to farmers.
Police monitoring has proved highly effective in the last few years, reducing theft by at least half. In addition to extra patrols signage has been installed in country areas advertising the 062 number for the Guardia Civil and also the APP-AlertCops which is free to download.

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