Ricardo Filipe Botelho de Brito Paes, AJAP, Portuguese Young Farmers

The third edition of the series of CEJA Presidential interviews features Ricardo Filipe Botelho de Brito Paes, President of AJAP, the Portuguese Young Farmers’ organisation.

Name: Ricardo Filipe Botelho de Brito Paes

Age: 33

From: Lisbon

Farm: Sheep Meat – Ourique – Alentejo, South of Portugal

How did you get into farming? Agriculture has been a family tradition for many decades, and something that I have always followed since I was very young, however it was in 2008 that I took agriculture up as an occupation.

Are you the head of the holding? If so, at what age did you start/take over the farm, and from whom? Yes, I am the manager of my agricultural exploitation; I started this activity when I was 26 years old. My mentor was my grandfather; it was him and my brothers who started the activity.

How did you get into young farmer representation? The Association of Young Farmers of Portugal is well known in Portugal for the support and services it provides to farmers. In this context, I originally went to the organisation for technical support, and, later on, the formalization of the Young Farmer Project, having then become associated with the organization. From there, due to my involvement in the sector, I was invited to join the administration, integrating a list of candidates for the elections.

Where do you see your farm in ten years? When anyone starts an activity, and the agricultural sector is no exception, we aim to expand the exploitation and complement or diversify our production area, so I hope that in 10 years I will have evolved into a very successful farmer. I may well turn my sheep farm into a reference operation where what is done here can be studied and replicated by others interested in sheep farming. My own success does not decrease with the success of others; on the contrary, it grows. This is my ambition – to grow and to help others grow with me!

 Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time? Certainly still in agriculture! The sheep farming and breeding that I am doing now is something that I like and would like to be able to ensure its continuity and survival to be able to pass it on to my children. I would also like to pass on the importance that our young farmer organization holds, and the importance of this type of organization and representation in the sector.

How many young farmers are there in Portugal? We know that the percentage of young people in agriculture is very low, representing around 3% of the farming population.

Why do you think the figure is so low? Unlike other EU countries, in Portugal, agricultural activity has always been seen as a minor activity of little importance. This is a problem with which AJAP has always struggled, because farming has become a sector where only those young people who are less able or who have less financial resources than others look to. This mistake is something that we are paying for now, as depicted by the extremely low number of young Portuguese in this sector.

What do you think about the new CAP, and how do you see it affecting you and other young farmers in Portugal? Our main concern with the new CAP is that in Portugal, the lump sum amount of installation aid available per young farmer under Rural Development has decreased compared to the previous programming period. We are therefore afraid that the impact of the new CAP could be a negative one on the number of young farmers setting up farms in the period from 2014 to 2020. It is not possible for generational renewal to happen in the Portuguese farming population because of this, despite how desperately needed it is here.

What are the most popular types of farm for young farmers in Portugal and why? In Portugal the most popular agricultural activities among young farmers are: wine production, olive groves, dairy cows and vegetables. However, new types of cultivation are constantly emerging, such as small red fruits (e.g.: blueberry, raspberry), herbs, snail farming, and almonds among many others. The first cultures are traditional activities of our country which will always be fundamental to the sector and the rest are closely linked to a new generation of young farmers in Portugal that has emerged in recent years, young educated people from other areas who are looking for new opportunities, a different way of life, and therefore set up in farming.

What do you think should be done in your Member State to promote generational renewal in the farming population? An interesting advertising campaign is already being done among young people where many depict a high quality future in this activity, but generational renewal is also very important, to do a good job for older farmers. In my opinion is that this has also failed. If we do not provide conditions for older people to retire and make room for younger farmers, however good they may be, they won’t be able to enter the sector.

What recent achievements has your organisation accomplished? Taking into consideration the increasing desertification of rural spaces, AJAP submitted a “Young Rural Entrepreneur” figure for recognition from the Government. We believe that these young people who can invest in the rural spaces, in areas directly or indirectly linked to agriculture, will combat the extensive desertification of the rural areas.

How many young farmers does AJAP represent and what kind of services does it provide its young farmer members? AJAP represents 13,000 members in Portugal, the services it offers are:

– Preparation of all types of Young Farmer installation projects and investment;

– Completion of forms relating to direct aid and rural development to which farmers are entitled;

– Support widespread field technician, and specialized technical support in Integrated Production and Organic Farming;

– Cooperation measures and aid in Internationalization of Agricultural Companies;

– Vocational Training; and

– Legal Support.

What do you think are the advantages of farming in Portugal compared to other EU Member States? In my opinion the great advantage is that Portugal has a very diverse climate and terrain that allows a wide range of products and at the same time they are of great quality, which makes our products well-known and valued.

What would you like to achieve within your organisation and within CEJA in your time as President of the Portuguese young farmers’ association? AJAP has been part of CEJA for a long time, as such our goal in the future is to maintain this link, because we believe that it is of extreme importance for both organizations and we will do everything so that in the near future we are even closer.