Andrea Carassi, director general of the Italian Association of the Edible Oil Industry (Assitol), has warned that Italy is facing an olive oil shortage greater than any seen in over a generation.
His comments come amid a string of disappointing harvest forecasts across the Mediterranean basin.
Growers in Spain, the world’s largest olive oil producer, predict a 50 percent decline in production. Meanwhile, authorities in Tunisia, Italy and Portugal also anticipate significant production decreases this year.See Also:Amid Growing Inflation, Italians Prioritize High-Quality Food Purchases
“We had spoken of a hot autumn for olive oil in early September. Unfortunately, we were not wrong,” Carassi told Il Sole 24 Ore. “The disproportion between consumption and production is such that, between now and next summer, we may not have enough oil for the shelves of large retailers.”
The Italian domestic market accounts for approximately 600,000 tons of extra virgin olive oil sales each season. However, recent estimates predict that only a third of this will be provided, owing to a series of catastrophic climate events ranging from storms to drought.
Soaring energy prices have further complicated the situation, increasing production costs and prompting calls for subsidies for producers and consumers alike.
However, Carassi sees a danger in artificially lowering prices. He said this could lead to an even earlier depletion of stock and that “at a time when olive oil is becoming a rare commodity, we believe that it is advisable to avoid continuous recourse to promotions which would damage consumer confidence in the entire olive oil sector, and debase the value of our efforts.”
This will do little to allay the fears of consumers, however. Italy’s National Confederation of Independent Farmers (Coldiretti) warned that extra virgin olive oil might reach a record retail price of €10 per liter as every part of the supply chain, from production and packaging to labeling and transport, is burdened by cost increases of 30 to 170 percent.