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Italy Fears Running Out of Olive Oil By April

Unusual weather, Xylella fastidiosa and the removal of ancient trees for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline in Puglia, have caused Italy's olive oil production to hit a 25-year low.

Feb. 21, 2019
By Julie Al-Zoubi

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Fol­low­ing a dis­as­trous olive har­vest in which yields fell to a 25-year low, there have been reports that Italy may run out of olive oil in months.

We risk for­ever los­ing the chance to con­sume Ital­ian extra vir­gin olive oil, which will have dis­as­trous effects on the econ­omy, jobs, health and the coun­try­side.- Coldiretti spokesper­son

We risk for­ever los­ing the chance to con­sume Ital­ian extra vir­gin olive oil, which will have dis­as­trous effects on the econ­omy, jobs, health and the coun­try­side,” the Ital­ian farm­ing lobby, Coldiretti, told The Times.

Italy’s olive oil pro­duc­tion dropped to 185,000 tons accord­ing to fig­ures released by the Insti­tute of Ser­vices for the Agri­cul­tural and Food Mar­ket (ISMEA).

Con­sumers, who felt the blow as olive oil prices rose by 31 per­cent last month, could be left high and dry by April and pro­duc­ers forced to top up with Tunisian olive oil.

See more: Trans-Adri­atic Pipeline

An olive oil short­age could bring a halt to tra­di­tional pizza twirling in Naples because as Enzo Coc­cia, a mas­ter Neapoli­tan piz­zaiolo told Olive Oil Times, a light, high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil has been an essen­tial ingre­di­ent of the Neapoli­tan pizza since 1900.

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At La Notizia I use only extra vir­gin olive oil DOP of Sor­rento Coast or Salerno Hills, but we can use also a good extra vir­gin olive oil that comes from Tus­cany, Sicily or Lig­uria,” Coc­cia said.

Unusual weather con­di­tions, includ­ing heavy rains and the early onset of win­ter, have con­tributed to Italy’s poor har­vest along with an ongo­ing bat­tle against deadly Xylella fas­tidiosa that has rav­aged many of its olive groves.

Puglia’s ancient olive groves which pro­duce around 50 per­cent of Italy’s total olive oil pro­duc­tion saw yields fall by around 65 per­cent this sea­son. Farm­ers in the region were dealt the added blow of watch­ing on as up to 10,000 ancient olive trees were uprooted to make way for the con­tro­ver­sial Trans Adri­atic Pipeline (TAP). Appeals and protests failed to halt the project but delayed work until 2017.

It’s dra­matic here now, our olive oil has won­der­ful qual­ity since two years, but some­one wants to destroy them,” local res­i­dent and strong sup­porter of the NOTAP move­ment, Sabina Giese, told Olive Oil Times.

In our region there are many rea­sons why the oil and olive trees need pro­tec­tion,” she added. TAP is uproot­ing more than 10,000 olive trees between Melen­dugno and Mesagne.”

Giese also alleged that where TAP is cur­rently drilling, the ground has been poi­soned by arsenic and hexa­va­lent chromium. Olive Oil Times was unable to inde­pen­dently ver­ify this claim.

A spokesper­son for TAP has pre­vi­ously told Olive Oil Times that the uprooted trees were to be tem­porar­ily taken care of in nurs­eries and trees found to be infected with Xylella would be destroyed instead of relo­cated. TAP has also stated that it is com­mit­ted to avoid­ing, min­i­miz­ing and mit­i­gat­ing any neg­a­tive effects on the envi­ron­ment.”

Giese blames the gov­ern­ment and believes the heavy handed approach, which forced Puglian olive farm­ers to use strong pes­ti­cides and fell infected trees or face mas­sive fines, was a strat­egy to replace local vari­eties of olive trees with super inten­sive oil pro­duc­ers who require vast amounts of water as well as expen­sive nutri­tion and treat­ments to thrive.

Xylella is also dam­ag­ing our trees,” Giese said. There would be a nat­ural way to cure the trees but the gov­ern­ment is impos­ing the use of very strong pes­ti­cides to kill the bac­terium with huge con­se­quences for the envi­ron­ment and to con­trol what trees should be planted after the extinc­tion of our local nat­ural olive trees.”

Ear­lier this year Assi­tol, the asso­ci­a­tion of Ital­ian olive oil pro­duc­ers, high­lighted the strug­gles brought about by Italy’s tra­di­tional approach to olive oil pro­duc­tion with its high costs and fail­ure to expand and meet demands.





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