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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Canary Islands Count Their Sheep

A couple of sheep on La Gomera

We sincerely hope these statistics don't put you to sleep, but you may be interested to know what other activities go on in these islands to support the local economy, apart from tourism.

Canary Island wines have certainly been enjoying a renaissance in recent years and this is reflected by the fact that, in ten years, the area of the Canary Islands dedicated to the cultivation of vines grew by 7,648 hectares, from 11,277 in 1994 to 18,925 in 2004, which works out to an increase of around two-thirds, 68 percent.

In the same interval, the area designated for the cultivation of bananas increased by 1,138 hectares, while the area devoted to the cultivation of tomatoes decreased by the greatest amount, 1,898 hectares or 65 percent, from 4,830 in 1994 to 2,932 in 2004. Potato growing also dropped by more than a quarter in the ten years.

In 2004, the total cultivated area in the Canaries was 51,191 hectares, of which 37 percent (18,925) was utilized for vines, 19 percent for bananas, 11 percent for potatoes, 9 percent for fruit, 6 percent for tomatoes and 1 percent for ornamental plants and flowers. The remaining 17 percent had other types of crops.

The figures, from the regional government's department of Agriculture, Farming and Food, also reflect increases in the areas of land dedicated to raising ornamental plants (170 hectares) and flowers (72 hectares), between 1994 and 2004.

Casting an eye over the livestock, the numbers indicate an overall increase of 35.2 percent. In 1994 the total head count was 363,450, while in 2004, this had risen by 128,141 to reach 491,591.

By far, the greatest number are goats - all 326,807 of them - whose number increased by 42 percent, up from 228,723 in 1994.

A quite different reality exists in pig farming, where the numbers have decreased by 13 percent, down to 69,653. Meanwhile, the number of cattle showed a slight (3 percent) increase to 21,118.

How many sheep? Their number has risen by the greatest amount, a massive 108 percent rise, in the ten year period. There were 74,013 counted at the time of the study. What we would like to know though, is how did the civil servants stay awake to do it?