Europe

Italian Olive Oil Production Estimated to Be Down by As Much As Half, Prices Largely Unaffected

Despite earlier predictions of a strong harvest, olive oil producers in Italy and most of Europe have revised their forecasts for the 2016 season sharply downward, while stocks from last year are keeping prices stable.

Sep. 28, 2016
By Ylenia Granitto

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Last year Italy pro­duced 470,000 tons of olive oil, dou­bling the hor­ren­dous 2015 out­put of 220,000 tons, to again become the world’s sec­ond-largest pro­ducer after Spain. Not only was the 2015 yield more than sat­is­fy­ing, the qual­ity was great too, thanks to per­fect cli­matic con­di­tions.

This year, good flow­er­ing made most pro­duc­ers opti­mistic at first that the pos­i­tive trend would con­tinue, but a series of unfa­vor­able weather-related fac­tors over the last period made things worse and, under these con­di­tions, it is now esti­mated that pro­duc­tion will not exceed 250,000 tons.
See more: Com­plete Cov­er­age of the 2016 Olive Har­vest
Some farm­ers started har­vest in mid-Sep­tem­ber to deal with the crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion and pre­vent loss, since the olive fruit fly and other pathogens had already affected olive groves in many pro­duc­tion areas.

The next few weeks will be cru­cial for those who are wait­ing for the right moment to start.

These chal­lenges are partly due to the fact that there was vir­tu­ally no win­ter through­out Italy, espe­cially in areas of the cen­ter and south.

Higher-than-aver­age tem­per­a­tures and humid­ity helped pathogens to develop, even in peri­ods when bio­log­i­cal devel­op­ment would be nor­mally sus­pended. Despite other spo­radic adverse weather con­di­tions like hail, there was great con­fi­dence among the most of pro­duc­ers until the period of fruit set, when they had to face sec­ondary pests like Anthrac­nose, and onset of Lytta Vesci­ca­to­ria (or Span­ish fly). More­over, Anthrac­nose became a major prob­lem when olive fly, dur­ing egg-lay­ing spread fungi to fruits.

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Some areas have suf­fered severe drought while in other regions heavy rains caused humid­ity and tem­per­a­tures below 30°C (86°F), which are ideal con­di­tions for the devel­op­ment of fly that in some cases left up to 10 tracks on one olive, as reported by some farm­ers.

For those who had to face these chal­lenges, treat­ment had lit­tle affect, espe­cially in bio­dy­namic and organic agri­cul­ture. In the case of con­ven­tional treat­ments and the use of prod­ucts with pre-har­vest inter­val of 28 – 30 days, the effi­cacy decreased when it rained.

In par­tic­u­lar, organic farm­ers started har­vest­ing early in order to pre­vent fur­ther attacks of the fly, but all pro­duc­ers of the Boot’ stand at atten­tion, even those who have had no prob­lems so far due to the posi­tion of their olive groves or to the prompt­ness and effec­tive­ness in apply­ing treat­ments.

Early and con­stant mon­i­tor­ing is essen­tial. Farm­ers who started to super­vise their plants from the begin­ning of spring, watch­ing for the occur­rence of sec­ondary dis­eases and apply­ing right treat­ments in time, are able to have bet­ter results.

Accord­ing to a study con­ducted by GEA Iberia in July, the fore­cast indi­cated a decrease of 8 per­cent in world pro­duc­tion of olive oil for 2016 and it is esti­mated that all Europe will suf­fer a drop in pro­duc­tion.

In the same way as Italy, in Spain good expec­ta­tions have been sub­verted because of the heat and sum­mer drought with pro­duc­tion now esti­mated about 1.3 mil­lion tons.

A slump is also expected for Greece, while Por­tu­gal should reach an aver­age pro­duc­tion.

Else­where in the Mediter­ranean basin, a drop in pro­duc­tion is expected in Tunisia yet Turkey seems to be the only place that will reg­is­ter an increase. Nev­er­the­less, accord­ing to oper­a­tors in the sec­tor, prices will not sig­nif­i­cantly increase thanks to left­over stocks from last sea­son.



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