Business

Difficult Harvest in Italy Leads to Higher Prices

Italian olive oil production in 2016 will probably be half of last year's, yet producers acted in time to maintain high-quality as global prices trend upward.

Dec. 2, 2016
By Ylenia Granitto

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“Mills opened ahead of time all over Italy,” said a market ana­lyst at the Institute of ser­vices for the agri­cul­tural and food market ISMEA, Tiziana Sarnari. “It is now estab­lished prac­tice to pick olives early, during their verai­son stage to pre­serve all the organolep­tic and sen­so­r­ial qual­i­ties of olive oils. Nevertheless, this hap­pens also for more prac­ti­cal pur­poses, namely to get most of the pro­duc­tion (early) during a dif­fi­cult har­vest like the one we are going through.”

They coped with dif­fi­cul­ties and, despite the decline in pro­duc­tion, reached high levels of qual­ity.- Paola Fioravanti, UMAO

According to the last report by ISMEA, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the national orga­ni­za­tion of olive oil pro­duc­ers, Unaprol, the Italian pro­duc­tion of olive oil in 2016 will prob­a­bly amount to 243,000 tons, with a 49-per­cent drop.
See more: Complete Coverage of the 2016 Olive Harvest

While south­ern and cen­tral regions have suf­fered a decrease of 50 and 40 per­cent respec­tively, more favor­able cli­matic con­di­tions allowed the north­ern sector to achieve slightly better results. This is prob­a­bly due to the smaller size of pro­duc­tive areas which allowed closer mon­i­tor­ing, but it is inter­est­ing to note that in places olive grow­ing has been recently intro­duced, olive trees in full pro­duc­tion expressed their max­i­mum poten­tial.

The early har­vest was mainly urged on by the fear of yet another attack of the olive fruit fly Bactrocera oleae that could still damage the olives that had resisted pre­vi­ous attacks. In addi­tion to the lower yields due to bio­log­i­cal alter­na­tion, adverse weather con­di­tions inter­changed heat and cold in rapid suc­ces­sion, rains and, sub­se­quently, a wet summer with tem­per­a­tures that did not exceed 30°C (86°F) at night. This cre­ated the ideal envi­ron­ment for a tremen­dous devel­op­ment of olive fly, that in 2014 already under­mined Italian pro­duc­tion.

Traditionally, these kinds of annus hor­ri­bilis from the phy­tosan­i­tary point of view are dis­tanced up to 15 years. “Nevertheless, what hap­pened two years ago alerted many man­u­fac­tur­ers, which acted prop­erly and saved part of the pro­duc­tion,” Sarnari con­sid­ered. “More healthy olives have been selected, and the qual­ity is higher than it was in 2014.”

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This was echoed by the pres­i­dent of the Mediterranean Union of Oil Tasters, UMAO. “Nature pro­vided some warn­ings, which allowed pro­duc­ers to better meet the chal­lenge,” Paola Fioravanti said. “Monitoring and apply­ing proper treat­ments at the right time, they coped with dif­fi­cul­ties and, despite the decline in pro­duc­tion, reached high levels of qual­ity.”

In accor­dance with to the latest data pro­vided by the International Olive Council, a 14-per­cent drop is expected in the world­wide pro­duc­tion, which will stand well below the 3‑mil­lion-ton thresh­old, with a drop of 6 per­cent in Spain, 19 per­cent in Greece, 14 per­cent in Portugal, 29 per­cent in Tunisia, 15 per­cent in Morocco, 18 per­cent in Argentina.

Despite the ini­tial expec­ta­tions, upward trends of prices in Italy breached the limit of €5.50 per kilo­gram in November. In accor­dance with the IOC, a slight price increase is glob­ally recorded (10 per­cent in Spain, 21 per­cent in Greece, 12 per­cent in Tunisia).

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