La Almoraima Estate
By Chris Chaplow
The La Almoraima estate in Castellar de la Frontera occupies 14.000 hectares and is one of the largest estates in Spain. Agriculture, Forestry, Cork, Hunting, Tourism are main industries in the estate. A vast quantity of cork is produced from the cork oak trees, quercus suber which are stripped of bark each summer on a seven year rotation. The estate lies within the Parque Natural Los Acornocales.
The La Almoraima was expropriated from José María Ruiz-Mateos and the RAMASA group in 1983 by the state government lead by Felipe González (who was given Medalla de Oro (Golden Medal) and designated Hijo Adoptivo (Adopted Son) of Castellar de la Frontera). In June 2013 the Government (Comisión para la Reforma de las Administraciones Públicas) announced the intended sale of the estate. In January 2014 Arias Cañete, the environment minister, suggested an 50% increased price of 300 million euro and mentioned that a number of unnamed foreign investors were interested.
The estate was firmly in the media spotlight a month later when Mexican actress Salma Hayek and husband François-Henri Pinault, visited by helicopter. The Government confirmed in March that they were preparing documents for a sale by public auction. They faced much local opposition lead by Castellar Town Hall and the Junta de Andalucia who expediently increased the size of the Parque Natural Los Acornocales to 100% of the estate in order to block any construction of luxury hotels or golf courses or anything for that matter. Others argued that with carefully crafted obligations and duties the estate would benefit from the investment that it had lacked for decades and that 100 persons presently employed was not many considering the size and the potential.
Perhaps because the environment minister changed in April the Government never published any sale details. In May 2015 the government announced that it had told the 12 interested buyers that the La Almoriama estate was now not for sale because the 'interests in privatization had disappeared' It later eloborated that with efficient farm management the estate was now returning a profit. Perhaps it was more the need to demonstrate to the EU Central Bank that funds would be raised during the economic crisis had changed.
The full details for the extention to the Parque Natural Los Acornocales were published in the BOJA as decree 150/2017 and not only included the remaining 10% of La Almoraima but also an extention down to the coast at Finca Guadalquiton between the residential La Alcaidesa and Sotogrande. The La Almoraima estate objected to this classification but were not sucessful in an April 2020 Andalucia Supreme court ruling.
VISITING LA ALMORAIMA
The estate is open to the public but the gate is pad-locked, however it is well worth visiting with an accredited guide You can do this by a 4x4 tour, stopping to see the wildlife and other points of interest. The tracks are a little rough in places so be prepared. Horseback tours or specialties can also be arranged. As you drive deep into the estate you will be most impressed with its seemingly never ending size and total absence of any modern development. This is probably an unique opportunity not to be missed. Ask for details of guides at Hotel Castellar or Almoraima Hotel