Elena Cebrián, the Minister of reconciliation

By Silvia Soria

Elena Cebrián has held the position of Minister for Agriculture, the Environment, Climate Change and Rural Development in the Community of Valencia since the 29th of June 2015, and she performs her work with diligence, good “governance” and patience…, a great deal of patience.

Cebrián has the hard task of reconciling two groups who have cast accusations galore against each other over the past decades: the agricultural sector and the ecological sector. We could say that if she manages it, she will go down in history in the Valencian sector as the Minister of the reunification. Her profile helps this understanding because Elena is a trained agronomist, a career civil servant within the Corps of Engineers since 1999, an expert on the subject of water, she has held positions of responsibility under governments of different ideologies and she is also a member of the European Environment Agency, a vegetarian and she loves to move around on her bicycle. With this lifestyle, she has known how to group together interests, calm down confrontations and, to date, bring hope to the sector with amazing sounding projects.

The Community of Valencia is once again present at Fruit Attraction. The Valencian sector has a significant presence at this show.

Yes, and it is not surprising because Valencian companies backed internationalisation over half a century ago and they have always done this… When things were going well and also when they were going not so well. Valencian companies have always known how to take advantage of the circumstances.

The sector is monitoring many areas that could determine its future, and water management is one of them. This year starts a new performance period, which takes place after the review of the first management plans drafted under the Water Framework Directive, passed in 2000. How are you committed to this subject?

Good governance of water is what we want, leaving behind us sterile debates, fights, making war over water. This is over. What we want is to have a technical debate, talk about management, about how to improve the relations between the administrations where we hold competences over the management and planning of a resource that is essential for the life of all ecosystems, for our economic resources. This must be taken very seriously and it deserves a deep, calm reflection and the necessary diplomacy because we must prepare ourselves for a future with serious periods of drought.

Has the heat we have suffered from over the past months had serious consequences on the Community’s fruit and vegetable crops?

We have been suffering from a very serious drought for three years now and it is true that the regulation systems and the work of the technicians have been very good. This has allowed the crops to stand up to the summer reasonably well, but there are systems and sub-systems that are having great difficulties and this is what concerns us, because the drought is beginning to become the norm.

Are you ruling out water transfers?

No… because what the greatest experts in water resources management say is that the best route is to bring all the resources together, that is to say, desalination plants, transfers, regenerated water, purified water, etc. Investment is required particularly in regenerated water. And regarding desalination, we have requested it of the Minister and things are being done to make it easier for the cost of the water to be reasonable.

What other questions are on your agenda as main concerns?

In recent weeks we have presented the citrus fruit capacity and we have taken stock of the campaign. We are also meeting with the sector to study trade questions because we are very concerned about the decisions made by the European Commission regarding South African imports and their impact on the markets. We are also making a great effort in the integrated and biological fight to contain pests and diseases. And obviously, we have had to be very demanding and, apart from our monitoring functions, we have seriously requested the Ministry and the Commission to take these subjects into account.

What are the most immediate sectorial challenges?

To guarantee a production in good conditions in order for the produce to have quality guaranteed. To do this, the technicians are preparing a complete plan for plant health, establishing production times with sufficient yields and at the same time, improving working conditions.

From January to June of this year the Community’s agrifood sector has made exports valued at of 3,061 million euros. What have you thought about for the business sector?

The agrifood sector is exemplary, dynamic, innovative… it has sought out new markets, it has quality, it offers image and we must look after this. This dynamism has meant it has made its own way. This is what we want to change. The sector must be accompanied, things must be made easier for it, it must be helped in areas where it is needed and all the promotional lines need to be strengthened, particularly at trade fairs and in campaigns such as the one we are preparing for Christmas and which, I can tell you, has to do with our Vinalopó grapes and the Denominations of Origin. This sector needs us to recoup its pride.

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