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Production in Italy Below Average as Subsidized Farmers Hold Back

Oct. 26, 2010
Lucy Vivante

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By Lucy Vivante
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Rome

Italy’s Institute for Services to the Agricultural and Food Market (ISMEA) is esti­mat­ing the coun­try will pro­duce 550,000 tons of olive oil this year, 6% above last year’s 518,000 tons. The slight gain from 2009 is, how­ever, below the four-year aver­age of 580,000 tons. The Institute says the decline in pro­duc­tion is attrib­ut­able to the sub­sidy struc­ture – known as the sin­gle pay­ment scheme – where grow­ers are sub­si­dized for keep­ing up their groves, whether they har­vest their olives or not. ISMEA also reports that olive grow­ers, con­fronted with the con­tin­u­ing low prices for olive oil and increas­ing costs for cul­ti­va­tion, often forego har­vest­ing, depress­ing total olive oil production.

One of the ways grow­ers save on their cul­ti­va­tion costs is by not prun­ing their trees. Trees that are not pruned will bear higher amounts of fruit one year, fol­lowed by lesser amounts the next. This is one of the rea­sons for the fluc­tu­a­tion in yield. Of course, cli­mac­tic con­di­tions are key to yields. Last winter’s large amount of rain mostly helped grow­ers in the south and cen­tral regions, but hurt north­ern grow­ers. The pre­cip­i­ta­tion in the north often came in the form of snow, freez­ing rain, and hale.

Lazio leads the cen­tral regions with a 35% to 40% gain in yields, although it was only slightly bet­ter than 2008 totals there. Sardinia, sim­i­larly, is expected to have an excel­lent year with a 40% increase over last year. Puglia, Italy’s strongest olive region, will have 10% to 15% gains over last year. The table gives esti­mates for this year, and actual totals for 2007, 2008, and 2009 in all of Italy’s regions except for the north­ern and olive­less region of Aosta. The table was com­piled by ISMEA in con­junc­tion with ISTAT (Italian National Institute of Statistics), CNO (National Consortium of Olive Growers), and UNAPROL (Consortium of Olive Producers).

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