`Farms in Italy Welcome an Uptick in Agritourism as Challenging Harvest Gets Underway - Olive Oil Times

Farms in Italy Welcome an Uptick in Agritourism as Challenging Harvest Gets Underway

Nov. 14, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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The first few weeks of the olive har­vest in Puglia con­firmed that the 2022/23 crop year would be chal­leng­ing for farm­ers in Italy’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region.

Olive yields are so low in cer­tain areas that some grow­ers are not both­er­ing to har­vest, and some millers are not open­ing their facil­i­ties.

If we look at the whole of Apulian olive pro­duc­tion, we do not have a 30 per­cent drop as some had pre­dicted. We are run­ning way lower than that.- Elia Pellegrino, pres­i­dent, AIFO

Growers who have decided to har­vest also face sig­nif­i­cant cost increases, while millers decid­ing to open up for the sea­son are con­fronting sky­rock­et­ing energy prices.

The con­di­tions for a com­plex har­vest­ing sea­son were very clear weeks ago, and now here we are, in a sce­nario which is prob­a­bly even more chal­leng­ing than fore­casted,” Elia Pellegrino, pres­i­dent of the Italian asso­ci­a­tion of olive oil millers (AIFO), told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:2022 Olive Harvest

The ongo­ing drought, repeated sum­mer heat­waves and many farm­ers enter­ing an off-year’ in the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree have cre­ated con­di­tions that are expected to yield an abysmal har­vest.

Along with these fac­tors, the south­ern areas of Puglia con­tinue to face the slow expan­sion of Xylella fas­tidiosa, an olive tree-killing bac­te­ria.

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Xylella fas­tidiosa is increas­ingly present in Brindisi and Lecce provinces. Affected areas have seen their yields fall between 50 and 70 per­cent com­pared to the aver­age before the appear­ance of Xylella fas­tidiosa.

If we look at the whole of Apulian olive pro­duc­tion, we do not have a 30 per­cent drop as some had pre­dicted,” Pellegrino said.

We are run­ning way lower than that. In Bari, and prob­a­bly in the rest of the region, we are at 30 per­cent of avail­able pro­duc­tion, which means that millers are only work­ing a few hours per day,” he added. There are not many olives, and energy costs remain high.”

Millers are the main mid­dle­men between grow­ers and retail­ers, pur­chas­ing olives from the for­mer to trans­form them into oil for the lat­ter to resell.

As a result, they are exposed to the most finan­cial risk when buy­ing expen­sive olives dur­ing a time of ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs with no guar­an­tee that they will receive high enough prices from retail­ers to cover their costs.

If we look at the costs for grow­ers which derive from the num­ber of fruits on the trees and if we take into account the oper­at­ing costs for millers, at the moment we do not have a sus­tain­able econ­omy for the trans­for­ma­tion busi­ness,” Pellegrino said.

According to olive farmer asso­ci­a­tions, it is time for the whole pro­duc­tion chain to develop a sol­i­dar­ity mech­a­nism through which all parts absorb the costs of sea­sonal pro­duc­tion uncer­tain­ties.

The mes­sage from the cur­rent cam­paign is the need for all stake­hold­ers to sit down at the nego­ti­at­ing table,” Pellegrino said. Not only grow­ers and millers but also pro­duc­ers and large retail­ers, so that the olive oil mar­ket and prices stay where they need to be to ensure a min­i­mum amount of sup­port for all par­ties.”

Luca Lazzàro, pres­i­dent of Confagricoltura Puglia, a farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, said regional olive pro­duc­tion is expected to fall by 50 per­cent com­pared to last year.

If we also con­sider the fuel costs, which have dou­bled, we can see why some olive grow­ers have decided to leave fruits on the trees,” he said. We need imme­di­ate pub­lic sup­port. We risk this cam­paign affect­ing con­sumers, hurt­ing pro­duc­ers and impov­er­ish­ing the fam­i­lies of the sec­tor’s work­ers. Most olive grow­ers are already exhausted after almost 10 years of strug­gling against Xylella fas­tidiosa.”

See Also:Olive Oil Tourism Guide

The only good news for the sec­tor comes from oleo­tourism. Warm weather has coin­cided with a national hol­i­day, lead­ing some Italians to visit farm­houses in Puglia.

According to the Coldiretti Puglia, another farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, the demand for agri-tourism expe­ri­ences remains strong, and the num­ber of active farm­houses in the region has grown two per­cent in the last year.

Of the more than 950 com­pa­nies, 91 per­cent offer accom­mo­da­tion, 72 per­cent focus on food ser­vices and 47 per­cent offer wine and olive oil tast­ing events.

Local author­i­ties recently approved a new law cre­at­ing wine and extra vir­gin olive oil routes to take advan­tage of the grow­ing agri­tourism trend in Puglia.

The leg­is­la­tion funds the cre­ation of oleo­tourism cen­ters and infor­ma­tion points. Each route will be marked to help tourists visit olive groves, farm­houses, mills, restau­rants and tast­ing venues.

The broader scope of the law includes orga­niz­ing edu­ca­tional and cul­tural activ­i­ties sur­round­ing olive oil and wine pro­duc­tion and sup­port­ing tech­ni­cal train­ing and mar­ket analy­ses.

The law also funds olive oil and wine research cen­ters to host work­shops for farm­ers and other agri­tourism com­pa­nies.

This ini­tia­tive looks to a future where the dis­cov­ery of local prod­ucts accom­pa­nies tra­di­tional tourism oppor­tu­ni­ties,” said Davide Bellamo, the lead­ing spon­sor of the leg­is­la­tion. By sus­tain­ing local cul­tural, edu­ca­tional and recre­ational activ­i­ties con­nected to olive oil and wine, we can also fur­ther sus­tain our food exports.”



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