Italy could be facing an olive oil shortage due to the country’s relatively low harvest, with reduced yields in Spain and much of the Mediterranean, Olive Oil Times reported trade sources as saying.

Even with increased olive oil production in Italy, the country’s stocks would still be low due to reduced Spanish yields, Andrea Carrassi, general director of the Italian Association of the Edible Oil Industry (Assitol) was quoted as saying in the 30 May report.

“The unified public information system for the Italian agricultural market (SIAN) reported 96,000 tonnes of olive oil stored in Italy at the end of April,” Carrassi told Olive Oil Times.

“And monthly sales reach approximately 11,000 tonnes on average.”

According to this forecast, Carrassi said Italy would start the next season – between October and November – with stocks below 30,000 tonnes.

Over the last five years, Italy produced an average of around 275,000 tonnes/year of olive oil compared to an average of slightly more than 345,000 tonnes/year in the previous five-year period, according to International Olive Council (IOC) figures.

Italy had reported progressively lower volumes over the last decade, with production in the country not exceeding 500,000 tonnes, a yield historically exceeded almost every season since the start of the century, the report said.

Although alternating olive oil yields and stocks was a normal occurrence, the drought that had affected most of the leading olive oil producing countries in the Mediterranean basin was not, Assitol’s general director said.

Drought in Spain had halved the country’s production to about 660,000 tonnes and had also affected production in Portugal, leading to reduced national and global stocks of olive oil, Olive Oil Times wrote.

Against this backdrop, Carrassi said Italy’s high level of olive oil consumption and exports would lead to shortages in the country.

“We are a country where almost 600,000 tonnes of olive oil are consumed annually,” Carrassi said. “We export more than 400,000 tonnes and are now producing a little more than 200,000 tonnes. That means about 80% of our olive oil needs are covered by imports.”

The approaching harvest is unlikely to resolve Italy’s olive oil deficit, according to Carrassi.

“Lately, in Italy, we are having even too much rain, as witnessed by the tragic floods in Emilia-Romagna,” Carrassi said. “But in Spain, it has not rained since February, which is destined to impact the new olive oil campaign.”

In addition, Tunisia – which has produced an average of 228,000 tonnes/year of olive oil in the last five years – was also experiencing drought, he said.

“To save the situation, we would need a season with at least 1.5M tonnes of olive oil produced in Spain. But that is not going to happen,” Carrassi added.

The current situation has been further complicated by rising production costs due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia/Ukraine conflict and higher energy costs, according to Carrassi.