With artisanal varieties commanding upwards of $50 a bottle, olive oil can be considered a luxury item. And now bad weather conditions affecting olive harvests may push the prices even higher.
The London Times reported on February 14 that Italy will run out of olive oil by April. Italian farming lobby Coldiretti said that the domestic olive harvest last fall dropped 57% to 185,000 tons, a 25-year low. That’s only four months’ worth of olive oil.
“We risk for ever losing the chance to consume Italian extra virgin olive oil, which will have disastrous effects on the economy, jobs, health and the countryside,” Coldiretti said.
As reported by FORTUNE online, Italy’s olive growers this year were hit hard by an early cold snap and freak rains, an insect-transmitted bacterium. The Xylella fastidiosa bacterium swept through the southern region of Puglia, whose ancient olive groves produce 65% of national output, usually about 400,000 tonnes, the Times reported. Olive prices rose 31% in January, which has led to fears that producers will fill up their bottles with lower-quality olive oil from Tunisia.
According to the Olive Oil Times, Italy’s production dropped by more than 50%, Greece’s by 35% and Portugal’s by 20%. On the other hand, Spain’s olive oil production this season is expected to increase by 25% to nearly 1.8 million tonnes.
“Unseasonable cold snaps and heat waves lined up perfectly to produce a bumper crop of olives in many regions this year,” wrote the Olive Oil Times.
Worldwide, 20.8 million tons of olives were produced in 2017, according to the most recent statistics from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.