Business

Droughts Threaten Olive Crops in Southern Europe

Farmers in Europe are concerned as continuing drought conditions and high temperatures throughout southern Europe are threatening crops like wheat, olives and almonds.

Jul. 20, 2017
By Isabel Putinja

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Hot and dry weather, heat waves and forest fires in sev­eral coun­tries across Southern Europe have cre­ated drought con­di­tions that are threat­en­ing crops like wheat, olives and almonds.

The region has been expe­ri­enc­ing below aver­age rain­fall for most of 2017 which, cou­pled with high summer tem­per­a­tures, has con­tributed to what the media are call­ing the worst drought in decades.

If we want to sus­tain our qual­ity agri­cul­ture, we need to reor­ga­nize our­selves to col­lect rain­wa­ter when it falls.- Coldiretti President Roberto Moncalvo

Cereal pro­duc­tion in Italy and Spain is par­tic­u­larly affected and has fallen to the lowest level in 20 years. Olive pro­duc­ers in both coun­tries are ner­vous about the upcom­ing crop after suf­fer­ing a bad har­vest last year due to harsh weather and pests.

Coldiretti, Italy’s farm­ers’ union, has esti­mated that two-thirds of Italy’s agri­cul­ture are affected, rep­re­sent­ing up to €2 bil­lion in dam­ages to the sector. La Stampa news­pa­per reports that the south­ern region of Calabria is worst hit, with an esti­mated loss of €310 mil­lion for olive grow­ers who are expect­ing a 35- to 40-per­cent decrease in pro­duc­tion.

Meanwhile, losses of €200 mil­lion have been reg­is­tered in the wheat crop in Campania and Tuscany, and provinces in the Piemonte region are seeing a 30-per­cent decline in their wheat pro­duc­tion. In the agri­cul­tural provinces of Parma and Piacenza, the gov­ern­ment has declared a state of emer­gency which should offer some finan­cial relief to farm­ers there.

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European Drought Observatory

Coldiretti’s pres­i­dent, Roberto Moncalvo, told La Stampa that “a new cul­ture of pre­ven­tion” is urgently needed: “If we want to sus­tain our qual­ity agri­cul­ture, we need to reor­ga­nize our­selves to col­lect rain­wa­ter when it falls,” he told the news­pa­per. “We can no longer permit our­selves to lose 9 out of 10 liters of rain­fall.”

In Spain, farm­ers are telling the media that this is the most cat­a­strophic drought they have expe­ri­enced since 1992. In the regions of Castile and Leon where cere­als rep­re­sent the biggest crops, losses are esti­mated at around 60 to 70 per­cent. The grape and olive har­vests are also under threat as high tem­per­a­tures and dry weather are fore­cast for the weeks to come.

Drought con­di­tions have also been observed in many parts of France, Belgium and parts of Northern Europe.

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A map released by the European Drought Observatory revealed veg­e­ta­tion stress due to a rain­fall deficit in regions in all south­ern European coun­tries as well as parts of France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Ukraine and Belarus for the first ten days in July.

A June 2017 report by ISCIENCES had warned that much of Europe will suffer a water deficit through 2017.

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In addi­tion to the heat waves that have affected south­ern Europe over recent weeks, forest fires sparked by the dry and hot weather have rav­aged the Italian regions of Campania, Calabria, Puglia and Tuscany, and parts of Spain, Portugal and Croatia, adding to the dev­as­ta­tion.