Italy has experienced a 57% plunge in its olive harvest – the worst in 25 years – as a result of extreme weather events, reports The Guardian newspaper.
In the past 18 months, Italy had experienced summer droughts, autumn floods and spring ice waves.
According to Prof Riccardo Valentini, a director of the Euro-Mediterranean Center for climate change, olive trees were weakened by these kinds of weather shocks and, even if they recovered, were left more vulnerable to outbreaks of the xylella fastidiosa bacterium and olive fly infestations, which had hit farmers in Italy and Greece.
The country’s Coldiretti farmers’ union had estimated that the cost of the olive oil collapse this year had already reached €1bn (US$1.1bn), The Guardian report said on 5 March.
As well as Italy, the European Commission had projected 2018/19 olive harvests to fall by 20% in Portugal and 42% in Greece, which had been hit by extreme drought and then heavy rains.
Vasilis Pyrgiotis, the chair of the Copa Cogeca farming union’s olives working group, said the industry had been hit by olive fly attacks and the gloeosporium olivarum fungus, which had affected the quality of olive oil.
“This year’s olives are not as good as they used to be. In the longer term, we face the possibility that they may not be considered as extra virgin oil because of analysis issues.”
The Guardian said total EU production could be saved by a surge from the bloc’s biggest producer, Spain, which was moving towards fast-growing, high-density olive plantations.