Complex Harvest Challenges Italian Farmers

The Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market released the first figures on the current harvest in Italy.

Harvest in Gargano
Nov. 26, 2018
By Ylenia Granitto
Harvest in Gargano

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The first fig­ures avail­able on the cur­rent crop sea­son in Italy were com­piled and released by the Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market (ISMEA), on the basis of data gath­ered by the Italian Agricultural Payments Agency (AGEA). According to the early indi­ca­tions from the mon­i­tor­ing net­work, yet in absence of objec­tive fac­tors such as yield, the olive oil pro­duc­tion vol­ume for the 2018/19 har­vest sea­son has been esti­mated to reach 265,000 tons, which is equiv­a­lent to a 38 per­cent decline com­pared to the 429,000 tons for last year.

However, spe­cial­ists at the Institute fore­cast that a fur­ther decrease up to 45 per­cent may occur by the end of the oper­a­tions in the Italian olive groves since weather con­di­tions could affect yield and qual­ity of fruits. Actually, as the har­vest pro­ceeds and enters the final phase, a fur­ther decline in vol­umes appears increas­ingly likely, and some experts say this year’s pro­duc­tion could hit a record low.

As men­tioned in the Ismea’s report, tak­ing into account the phe­nom­e­non of alter­nate bear­ing in olive trees, over the last six years the off-years’ always occurred with a drop in pro­duc­tion with an inten­sity that exceeded the phys­i­o­log­i­cal vari­a­tion.

This was due to the action of sev­eral fac­tors which con­tributed to sig­nif­i­cant down­turns, as was the case of the 222,000 tons pro­duced in 2014, a sea­son char­ac­ter­ized by the mas­sive pres­ence of the olive fruit fly, fol­lowed by the 182,000 tons of 2016, the worst har­vest in recent decades. Experts point out that, in the his­tory of Italian olive grow­ing, neg­a­tive sea­sons gen­er­ally occurred every 15 years, while in recent times, due to the increas­ing fre­quency of anom­alous cli­matic events, they have become more fre­quent.

Eager to keep the qual­ity up, pro­duc­ers have begun to carry out strict mon­i­tor­ing of olive groves and take timely action when nec­es­sary in order to pre­vent dis­eases, ensure ade­quate irri­ga­tion and pick olives at the right moment. During the cur­rent har­vest, it turns out that vari­eties usu­ally left on the trees until November have been col­lected at the end of September. For exam­ple, Carolea and Coratina required early oper­a­tions in sev­eral areas. Overall, how­ever, from north to south, activ­i­ties in the olive groves started ear­lier than usual.


South Italy par­tic­u­larly suf­fered from the effects of extreme weather events, start­ing from the Siberian cold wave that hit European coun­tries at the end of win­ter, and posed a threat to olive trees, espe­cially vari­eties whose grow­ing sea­son started early. In some cases, the recov­ery from severe frost dam­age to an olive tree could take years.

According to pre­lim­i­nary assess­ments, north­ern regions could expe­ri­ence an increase in pro­duc­tion thanks to good results achieved in Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Liguria, while cen­tral Italy will see a slight decline in vol­umes, despite the good per­for­mances of Umbria and Tuscany. In these areas, some grow­ers reported that vari­eties like Frantoio suf­fered more from the extreme tem­per­a­tures, while Moraiolo has shown a greater resis­tance. Regions like Abruzzo reg­is­tered a bet­ter sit­u­a­tion in the coastal strip than the inland areas, while ter­ri­to­ries such as lower Lazio region suf­fered from humid­ity, which hin­dered an opti­mal set­ting.

According to the newly cre­ated con­sor­tium Italia Olivicola, the reduced vol­umes of prod­uct reg­is­tered to date have led to the loss of over one mil­lion work­ing days, as a result of the cut­ting of work­ing hours for those involved in har­vest­ing and milling oper­a­tional phases.

Concerning prices, they imme­di­ately reacted to the expected down­turn, but we have to wait a few more days to have defin­i­tive fig­ures and a com­pre­hen­sive overview of what will be cer­tainly a com­plex sea­son for Italian grow­ers.

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