Jose Daniel Carbonell

Location: Isla Mayor, Doñana National Park area, Seville
Products: Brown & white Hispagran rice

Run by Jose Daniel and his brother, the Carbonell project is located south of Seville in the area of the Doñana National Park, where rice growing has traditionally been key to the livelihood of the local population. This is a generational venture; Jose Daniel’s grandfather was a rice farmer in Valencia who emigrated to Seville, and his father helped move the family business into larger-scale industrial production.

Their project has been a regional pioneer, both in deciding to convert to organic production and for the selection of the Hispagram variety of rice. It is a resilient grain, adapted to more saline environments and producing a consistent crop. “People worked with this variety but it fell out of use,” says Jose Daniel. “We’ve been committed to growing it again, and more farmers have joined us.”

For white rice the industrial processes of drying, selection, classification and peeling begins in September, after harvest. At international level the price of rice is influenced mostly by growers from northern Italy, and in such a competitve market distributing to smaller projects beyond Spain is hard; at the moment it is only possible with 30% of yearly production, but Jose Daniel hopes this will increase.

Rice requires a sheet of water to grow in; it is the blood flow of the crop, but also serves a greater use. The water facilitates a symbiotic relationship between the rice field and local birds, providing them with a food source in the summer – when the marshes of the Doñana become dry – in return for ecological diversity and nutrients. As Jose Daniel says, “We collaborate in maintaining the richness of the ecosystem and contribute algae or bacteria to nourish the environment.” “It all looks the same, but every season is different,” says his brother. “The colours, the light, the birds you can find, the state of the rice crop…”

However, the source of that water is a concern. Part of a community of local irrigators, the Carbonells warn that if a lack of sufficient yearly rainfall continues, growing rice around Isla Mayor will become unviable. This is what worries Jose Daniel most; the lack of water. “Without water, there is no viability.”