As Italy’s coronavirus death toll surpasses the 10,000 mark with more than 94,000 confirmed cases, many of the country’s businesses have ground to a halt with agriculture among the exceptions.
Facing “the most difficult crisis since World War II,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stressed now was the moment for the government and Italy’s people to take responsibility and face the ongoing economic, health and social challenges together.
In this difficult moment, every single action has value.
“This is the moment for responsibility,” he said. “The government guarantees the utmost commitment, but everybody is involved.”
A few days earlier, a decree had been signed to impose the closure of nonessential factories and social distancing measures in all regions of the country. Previously, these types of measures had only existed in Italy’s northern provinces.See more: COVID-19 News
“The health emergency, now, is first in our thoughts,” Nicolangelo Marsicani, a producer and miller, told Olive Oil Times. “In this time of instability and dismay, I felt the duty to transmit warmth and closeness to the people with whom I share the same passion, as well as a professional and educational path, organizing our usual work in a new way.”
Marsicani invited tasters to join a Facebook group and sent out six monovarietals of Coratina in accordance with the recommended health and hygiene procedures.
When all the tasters received the olive oils, they tasted them and completed an online profile sheet. Afterward, they shared their evaluations through live streaming on Facebook. They then discussed the olive oils, exchanging experiences and opinions.
“This is also a way to give each other courage,” Marsicani said. “Hopefully, thanks to doctors, nurses and all other health workers, with the collaboration of us citizens, this will be over soon, and we will begin to taste our extra virgin olive oils all together again.”
As basic services, including agricultural activities, continue to function, Italian olive growers are in the field.
Gagliardi farm produces monovarietal oils along with a blend of Gentile di Chieti, Dritta, Cipressino and Leccino in the central region of Abruzzo, using low-impact and sustainable farming methods.
“We are going on with the usual practices to take care of our land, closely following the measures taken by the authorities and also, most importantly, trying to help those who are on the front line in the health centers,” Di Benedetto said.
Along with his daily tasks in the olive grove, Di Benedetto is also working to raise money to build an intensive care unit in a nearby town, which would serve residents from more than 40 small rural and mountain villages.
“This is our way of showing gratitude to our wonderful territory, where our extra virgin olive oils are born,” Di Benedetto said.
His words echo the call to action from Antonio G. Lauro, a NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition panel member, who is also helping to raise money for new medical equipment for four different hospitals in the southern province of Reggio Calabria.
“Agricultural areas are often more in need of medical equipment,” Lauro said. “That’s why this kind of initiative deserves attention. In this difficult moment, we also try to give support to all those who work in the hospitals.”
“This action is very important for my birthplace, to which I owe my first introduction to the world of extra virgin olive oil,” Lauro added. “Unity is strength, and now everyone’s help is needed to get us through this emergency soon, in the best possible way.”
Along with trying to raise money via fundraising campaigns, other Italian producers are trying to do their part to help Italians combat COVID-19 by donating proceeds from their sales to charity.
“In this difficult moment, every single action has value,” Carmen Bonfante, a manager at Evo Sicily said. “For this reason, we want to play our part, and for each bottle of our monovarietal ‘Embrace’ sold, we will donate a portion of the proceeds (€3.00 or $3.30) to the Civil Protection that support the national health structures.”
In Campobello di Mazara, in western Sicily, Bonfante and her business partner, Giusy Gambini, are fully dedicated to a thousand plants of Nocellara del Belice and a hundred of Biancolilla, getting ready for their second production year.
“Especially at this historic moment, we feel it our duty to do everything we can to be worthy children of this extraordinary land, Italy,” Bonfante said. “We believe that solidarity is an investment that never fails; we believe that many small drops of olive oil can create a new ocean of humanity.”