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'Extraordinary Plan' to Revitalize Olive Trees in Puglia

The Italian Confederation of Agriculture has announced a funding plan to address the ongoing Xylella fastidiosa crisis in Puglia.

Jan. 21, 2020
By Sara Rosenthal

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Italy’s Gen­eral Con­fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture, Confa­gri­coltura, has drafted new plans to sup­port the regrowth of olive trees in Xylella fas­tidiosa-rav­aged region of Puglia.

The new plan pro­posed by the Confa­gri­coltura for 2020 through 2021 would real­lo­cate finan­cial resources in the region to address the cri­sis, with €300 mil­lion ($332 mil­lion) bud­geted for restora­tion, com­pen­sa­tion, re-plant­ing, and research.

The imple­men­ta­tion of the plan is extremely urgent. (We) hope that man­age­ment will be entrusted to a sin­gle entity specif­i­cally ded­i­cated to speed­ing up the times.- Pan­ta­leo Greco, pres­i­dent of the Confa­gri­coltura Prod­uct Fed­er­a­tion

Since 2013, Puglian olive oil pro­duc­tion has suf­fered due to destruc­tion caused by Xylella fas­tidiosa, which has infected thou­sands of trees through­out the south­east­ern Ital­ian region.

In response to this cri­sis, the Euro­pean Union ordered the culling of cen­turies-old trees, a con­tro­ver­sial deci­sion that has sparked protest among local farm­ers.

See more: Xyella fas­tidiosa News

The issue is com­plex, because Xylella was a new sick­ness, which for the moment has no cure,” Ste­fano Ver­sace, whose fam­ily runs the agri­cul­tural estate Azienda Agri­cola Rossi, said. This has become also a polit­i­cal con­fu­sion between insti­tu­tions of dif­fer­ent orders and impor­tance, and that does­n’t help resolve the issue.”

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Confagricoltura’s pro­posed plan allots the major­ity of funds, €210 mil­lion ($233 mil­lion) out of a €300 mil­lion total bud­get, for the restora­tion of pro­duc­tion poten­tial.

From the total bud­get, €115 mil­lion ($128 mil­lion) is allo­cated for com­pen­satory inter­ven­tions for farms and oil mills, €40 mil­lion ($44.4 mil­lion) is for replant­ing and con­vert­ing to resis­tant tree vari­eties and €20 mil­lion ($22.2 mil­lion) is for fur­ther research.

This bud­get includes €30 mil­lion ($33.3 mil­lion) of addi­tional fund­ing granted by the Puglia regional gov­ern­ment in August 2019 to alle­vi­ate poten­tial dam­age to olive oil pro­duc­tion and farms in Salento.

That €30 mil­lion was pro­vided by the FSC, the regional Devel­op­ment and Cohe­sion Fund, under a mea­sure that pro­vides finan­cial relief for the restora­tion of poten­tial agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion dam­aged by nat­ural dis­as­ters and cat­a­strophic events.

This pro­vi­sional addi­tion to the agri­cul­tural bud­get was intended to meet farm­ers’ requests for finan­cial assis­tance to replace infected trees, with the cre­ation of a spe­cial task force to address replant­ing appli­ca­tions.

In spite of these restora­tive mea­sures, the threat of re-infes­ta­tion looms large. Fur­ther research will help deter­mine the fea­si­bil­ity of replant­ing trees in pre­vi­ously infected areas and pro­vide insights on pre­ven­tive strate­gies going for­ward.

Mean­while, the urgency is appar­ent for those whose liveli­hoods depend upon pro­duc­tion prac­tices now exposed to pre­car­i­ous cir­cum­stances.

Some pre­pare to reimag­ine their liveli­hoods once their trees are dead. János Chialá, a local pho­tog­ra­pher, has been doc­u­ment­ing the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the ongo­ing dev­as­ta­tion.

Should the bac­te­ria be con­tained at all costs, through the erad­i­ca­tion of thou­sands of olive trees and the use of pes­ti­cides and her­bi­cides?” Chialá asked. Or should we… dis­card those agri­cul­tural prac­tices that have pre­pared the ground for dis­ease?”

Accord­ing to Pan­ta­leo Greco, pres­i­dent of the Confa­gri­coltura Prod­uct Fed­er­a­tion, this extra­or­di­nary plan” will help enact mea­sures swiftly.

The imple­men­ta­tion of the plan is extremely urgent,” he said. “[We] hope that man­age­ment will be entrusted to a sin­gle entity specif­i­cally ded­i­cated to speed­ing up the times.”

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