French olive growers are expecting the 2016 harvest to be a disappointment as a severe drought has hit the country during the summer months.
The World Meteorological Organization has expressed concerns in a recent report that 2016 will “very likely” be the hottest year on record as the average temperature is 1.2℃ degrees above pre-industrial levels, and France has obviously not been spared by the phenomenon. Scientists have stated that the impacts of climate change would come sooner and harder and the French olive growers have been at the receiving end of a pretty rough year in terms of drought.
The olive harvest has just started in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (often abbreviated as PACA), France’s most important olive production territory. Rodolphe Serratiozo, an olive grower from Aix-en-Provence expressed concerns over what is beginning to look more and more like a poor harvest.
See more: Complete Coverage of the 2016 Olive Harvest
“Look at this tree,” he said to a TF1 TV reporter while pointing at one of his olive trees, “Usually we are able to harvest around 15 kilograms of olives out of it. Now? I’d be happy if I can get 2 kilograms of olives out of it. I can’t say right now how much olive oil I’ll be able to produce this year but I’m expecting to produce one-third of the usual,” he added.
Rodolphe Serratiozo is not the only olive grower who have been hit hard by the recent drought. Laurent Rossi, olive production supervisor and owner of a mill in Mouriès (a city also located in the PACA region), is also dealing with the aftermath of the drought. When asked by 20minutes.fr about how the current harvest was going he sighed, paused, and answered: “Terrible.”
So what could French olive growers have done in order to prevent the drought from affecting their harvest that much? Installing irrigation systems would have sounded like a logical answer but unfortunately for the growers those systems are still expensive. Most French olive growers are already struggling to make ends meet.
This year’s mediocre harvest is terrible news for olive growers, who were just recovering from a terrible 2014 harvest when the olive fly had hit the French olive trees, causing severe damage. 2014 was the worst year in terms of olive harvest on French soil since the famously disastrous 1956 harvest season.
This year’s poor harvest generates tough financial challenges for French olive growers as the repercussion is twofold; on one hand, they will very likely earn less money out of their harvest and on the other hand they are being put in a tough spot regarding their loan reimbursing capacity.
French consumers have also expressed concerns about the situation.
Simple economics suggests that olive oil prices are expected to rise given that the supply has dropped significantly from last year. As France’s unemployment rate has risen to near-historic levels in the past few years here’s little doubt French consumers will be very aware of olive oil prices as the product is already comparatively expensive to other cooking oils.
Moreover, many French consumers have been wondering if the quality of olive oil would be affected as well. It is important to note that a decrease in quantity does not necessarily equate to a decrease in quality, thus the caliber of French olive oils should not be a concern.
France produces on average around 5,000 tons of olive oil annually, accounting for 0.2 percent of the world supply. Olive growing, as well as olive oil production in France, is concentrated in thirteen counties, all located in the PACA region.