` Could the Crisis in Italy Have Been Prevented?

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Could the Crisis in Italy Have Been Prevented?

Nov. 24, 2014
By Marco Marino

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2014 will go down as one of the worst years in recent his­tory for olive oil pro­duc­tion in Italy.

The lat­est data pro­vided by ISMEA (the Ital­ian Insti­tute of Ser­vices for Agri­cul­ture and Food Mar­ket) show dou­ble-digit drops in pro­duc­tion in all regions, except in Pied­mont and Sar­dinia.
See more: Com­plete Cov­er­age of the 2014 Har­vest
The rea­sons for the cri­sis are the same from North to South: the exces­sive sum­mer rain favor­ing the spread of olive fruit fly (bac­te­ro­cera oleae), and a hot, humid Octo­ber that accel­er­ated the olives’ mat­u­ra­tion caused a strong infes­ta­tion of olive lep­rosy” (Gloeospo­rium oli­varum) and pea­cock spot” (Spi­lo­caea oleaginea).

Almost every­where in the coun­try, pro­duc­ers are com­plain­ing about the har­vest and demand­ing access to aid for their sharply lower incomes.

But some experts are blam­ing the pro­duc­ers them­selves for being caught so unpre­pared for the emer­gency.

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Leonardo Lau­reti, pres­i­dent of the Umbrian DOP Con­sor­tium, told Sapere Food that many Umbrian pro­duc­ers under­es­ti­mated the crit­i­cal nature of the sea­son, show­ing lit­tle pro­fes­sion­al­ism.”

This year was dif­fi­cult for the whole coun­try and also Spain and Por­tu­gal faced sim­i­lar prob­lems,” Lau­reti con­tin­ued, but today we must be able to fore­see such risks, we can’t leave the olives up to fate. The Plant Pro­tec­tion Ser­vice of the Umbria Region issued a warn­ing urg­ing pro­duc­ers to imple­ment spe­cific treat­ments, but despite the first signs, many under­es­ti­mated the sit­u­a­tion.”

Leonardo Lau­reti

Accord­ing to Lau­reti, Umbria is not aware of its poten­tial. Our region pro­duces about 1.7 per­cent of Ital­ian oil and rep­re­sents 0.2 — 0.3 per­cent of the entire world pro­duc­tion. But we are a land that is rec­og­nized over­seas for its excel­lent qual­ity and a great abil­ity to export. Still a regional plan for the Umbrian oil does not exist yet.”

Lau­reti does not trust the use­ful­ness of eco­nomic aid granted to vic­tims of nat­ural dis­as­ters: The olive fly is not a new species, and the pre­ven­tion meth­ods are well cod­i­fied both in the inte­grated and organic pro­duc­tion rules. There are also multi-risk poli­cies co-financed by the Euro­pean Union, which few farm­ers know.”

This sea­son,” Lau­reti con­cluded, must be a warn­ing for all of us. In Umbria, the future olive cul­ti­va­tion must be dif­fer­ent than the cur­rent one; we need to invest in olive groves if we really want to pre­vent such sit­u­a­tions in the future.”


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