The latest estimates for the 2020/21 crop year in Italy show a 22 percent decrease in olive oil production compared to last year, according to three major agricultural associations.
The farmers association, Coldiretti, the Unaprol Consortium and the Institute for Food and Agriculture Market Services (Ismea) have warned that the effects of this summer’s extreme weather events have impacted the harvest in all of the country’s main producing regions.
The choice of many farmers to proceed with an early harvest in 2020 because of the climate conditions means priority must be given to the quality of the product, not to its quantity.
Italian producers are expected to yield 287,000 tons of olive oil this year. In 2019, the yield reached 366,000 tons.
These figures are well below the average numbers recorded until 2014 and seem to confirm a trend of progressively declining production.See Also: 2020 Harvest Updates
The heat and prolonged drought in many regions have contributed to most producers planning an early harvest.
Coldiretti published its market data as the first olive harvest took place at the Frantoio Cutrera mill, near Ragusa, Sicily.
The association warned that the final results of the 2020 harvest may be even lower than initial estimates since rough weather is now hitting many Italian regions with sudden temperature drops and strong winds.
Still, some stakeholders remain optimistic about the harvest.
“The olive oil sector has shown resilience to the health crisis,” Raffaele Borriello, head of Ismea, said. “In the first six months of 2020, bottled olive oil has shown a growth in exports, with a 28 percent increase to the United States and 42 percent increase to France.”
“The estimates for the current season show a slowing production which will be characterized by a high product quality level,” Borriello added. “Diminished availability of the national product and the reduced storage estimates in the European Union could fuel a rise in price at origin, heavily hit in the last season.”
According to Coldiretti, the price at origin of olive oil has fallen by 44 percent in Italy, with values that “have not been seen since 2014.”
“A trend, caused by the availability on the international markets of old Spanish olive oil that often ends up being sold as Italian olive oil,” Coldiretti said.
“The choice of many farmers to proceed with an early harvest in 2020 because of the climate conditions means priority must be given to the quality of the product, not to its quantity, and prefer the profitability per hectare to the yield per quintal,” David Granieri, the president of the Unaprol, added.