In Italy, Olive Growers See Signs of a Promising Harvest

Growers across Italy told Olive Oil Times that they had, for the most part, experiencing generous blossoming and fruitset. Climate extremes and pests remain a challenge.
(Photo: Cordioli)
By Paolo DeAndreis
Jul. 6, 2023 14:15 UTC

An early sur­vey con­ducted in sev­eral Italian regions by Olive Oil Times found that many pro­duc­ers are hope­ful as they look ahead to the 2023/24 crop year.

While it is too early to pre­dict how much olive oil may be pro­duced in Italy, most pro­duc­ers reported abun­dant flow­er­ing, with some say­ing they have also seen an opti­mal fruit set.

However, they all listed poten­tial olive fruit fly infes­ta­tions and extreme weather events as the most likely chal­lenges they must address in the com­ing weeks.

Significant por­tions of the Italian penin­sula were affected by con­sid­er­able rain­fall dur­ing spring­time. 

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

While the rains have not undone the effects of the long-stand­ing drought, rain­fall reached record lev­els in May in some regions, and the Po Valley in the north expe­ri­enced dis­rup­tive floods.

In the same weeks, repeated storms accom­pa­nied by strong winds and hail were reported in sev­eral loca­tions.

In a south­ern region such as Basilicata, home to almost 30,000 hectares of olive orchards, excep­tion­ally heavy rain­fall and intense hail­storms severely affected farm­ers.

Current esti­mates show that Basilicata’s olive oil pro­duc­tion poten­tial for the 2023/24 crop year has been reduced by at least 50 per­cent. The region pro­duces approx­i­mately 2.5 per­cent of Italy’s annual olive oil yield.

In many loca­tions, spring rain is expected to sig­nif­i­cantly impact the olive oil yields of the com­ing har­vest.

The build-up to the com­ing har­vest has been bet­ter than antic­i­pated for grow­ers in one of Italy’s north­ern­most olive-grow­ing regions.

We expected this to be an off-year,’ but last season’s unique con­di­tions impacted [the olive trees] and set us up for the cur­rent sea­son, which has started well, even if not excel­lent,” Furio Battelini, the tech­ni­cal direc­tor of Agraria Riva del Garda, told Olive Oil Times.

On and off yearsproduction-business-europe-in-italy-olive-growers-see-signs-of-a-promising-harvest-olive-oil-times

In the con­text of olive oil pro­duc­tion, the term off year” refers to a year in which olive trees pro­duce a lower yield of olives. Olive trees have a nat­ural cycle of alter­nat­ing high and low pro­duc­tion years, known as on years” and off years,” respec­tively. During an on year,” the olive trees bear a greater quan­tity of fruit, result­ing in increased olive oil pro­duc­tion. This is influ­enced by var­i­ous fac­tors, includ­ing weather con­di­tions, such as rain­fall and tem­per­a­ture, as well as the tree’s age and over­all health. Conversely, an off year,” also known as a light year” or low pro­duc­tion year,” is char­ac­ter­ized by a reduced yield of olives. This can occur due to fac­tors like stress from the pre­vi­ous on year,” unfa­vor­able weather con­di­tions, or nat­ural fluc­tu­a­tions in the tree’s pro­duc­tiv­ity. Olive oil pro­duc­ers often mon­i­tor these cycles to antic­i­pate and plan for vari­a­tions in pro­duc­tion.

During flow­er­ing, we only had very light rain­fall, so the fruit set­ting has also gone well,” he added. Important rain­fall came in May and replen­ished the water reserves, so this year, we do not expect prob­lems with irri­ga­tion.”

For the next few months, Battelini hopes for a hot sum­mer to keep the spread of the olive fruit fly at bay.”

Pietro Pollizzi, the owner of Enotre, told Olive Oil Times that flow­er­ing and fruit set are promis­ing in his orchards in the north­ern Veneto region. Pollizzi noted that he would be on the look­out for poten­tial pathogens due to the unusual humid­ity.


Ceil Friedman, the co-owner of Cordioli, also in Veneto, con­firmed that the flow­er­ing and the fruit set have been sat­is­fy­ing.

We are really in the hands of Mother Nature now,” she told Olive Oil Times. We can cope with every­thing, like insects or fungi, by deploy­ing organic treat­ments. But the weather is on its own, and just like every year, we fear hail­storms.” 

In cru­cial Italian olive oil pro­duc­tion regions, such as Tuscany, grow­ers are report­ing sig­nif­i­cant flow­er­ing. However, this has not always resulted in a sat­is­fy­ing fruit set.

The flow­er­ing was good, but the fruit set­ting is lower,” Daniele Santini, the founder of Entimio, told Olive Oil Times. It would almost seem an off-year’ in a few areas.”

Humidity and warmth are help­ing the olive fruit fly, which needs to be closely mon­i­tored,” he added.

In Florence, the pro­duc­ers behind Frantoio Pruneti expressed wor­ries about pos­si­ble tem­per­a­ture spikes in the next few weeks.

Flowering was good but delayed by the long win­ter first, and by tem­per­a­tures and intense rain­fall after that,” co-owner Gionni Pruneti told Olive Oil Times.

Pruneti noted how late flow­er­ing might impact olive devel­op­ment if the young fruits face extremely high tem­per­a­tures.

The best weather in the next three months would be a hot sum­mer with­out sud­den tem­per­a­tures spikes, which could lead to olive drops,” he said.

In another cen­tral Italian region, Umbria, pro­duc­ers hope for good results.

This year, we hap­pily had a won­der­ful flow­er­ing. Though, oth­ers around us men­tioned that they did not,” the pro­duc­ers behind Rastrello told Olive Oil Times.

Our spring was much longer than the last cou­ple of drought years, and our tran­si­tion into sum­mer was grad­ual, which helped the healthy devel­op­ment of the fruit,” they added.

Rastrello’s olive trees were affected by heavy hail­storms and lots of rain­fall. Ideally, from now until August, we would love one day of rain every two weeks,” they said.

In the cen­tral Lazio region, Francesco Agresti, the owner of Agresti 1902, told Olive Oil Times that he had seen aver­age flow­er­ing in his groves less exposed to weather extremes.

In other areas, those con­sid­ered at higher risk of being impacted, we now esti­mate [a poten­tial yield] 50 per­cent lower than our best sea­sons,” Agresti said.

The last part of spring hit us with an unusual vol­ume of rain­fall in terms of fre­quency and inten­sity,” he added. Should intense storms per­sist, the season’s yield would prob­a­bly be highly com­pro­mised.”

Due to its unique oro­graphic char­ac­ter­is­tics, Italy has sev­eral dis­tinct cli­mate regimes that may highly dif­fer­en­ti­ate con­di­tions among regions and even within adja­cent cul­ti­vat­ing areas.

Domenico Sperlonga, the owner of Olio dei Papi in south­ern Lazio, reported a flow­er­ing and fruit set that has led him to believe he will reach 80 per­cent of pro­duc­tion com­pared to his best crop years.

Similar results are reported in areas of the Italian south, where most Italian olive oil is pro­duced.

In Campania, Case d’Alto con­firmed to Olive Oil Times an excel­lent olive flow­er­ing” and cited tem­per­a­ture spikes as one of the cur­rent chal­lenges olive trees have to cope with.

Meanwhile, the pro­ducer behind Olearia San Giorgio in Calabria, Italy’s sec­ond-largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, said they antic­i­pate a promis­ing har­vest.

Flowering was excel­lent even in the midst of repeated rain­fall and the risk that so much rain could be too much,” owner Antonio Fazari told Olive Oil Times. What we now hope is that the rain ends and sum­mer truly starts. This would favor the healthy accu­mu­la­tion of oil in the new olives.” 

Should rain fall in July and August, that could stim­u­late the olive fruit fly pop­u­la­tion and make this coin­cide with the moment dur­ing which the olive dru­pes are more attrac­tive for the insects,” he added.

Some of Entimio’s olives also come from the south, with an aver­age fruit set­ting reported in north­ern Puglia and an aus­pi­cious sit­u­a­tion in Sicily.

Puglia is the most rel­e­vant olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, account­ing for approx­i­mately half of Italy’s total yield.

Describing the sit­u­a­tion on his south­ern farm in Puglia, Sperlonga noted how in the region, we have seen a wet and cool cli­mate dur­ing flow­er­ing which had a slight neg­a­tive impact on fruit set­ting.”

There, we have also expe­ri­enced the first heat­wave with tem­per­a­ture excur­sions of more than 16 ºC,” he added. First, pru­dent esti­mates talk of a 50 to 60 per­cent poten­tial yield in the cur­rent sea­son. We now fear the olive fruit fly, whose attacks would impact on qual­ity.” 

Frantoi Cutrera reports some impact from higher than aver­age rain­fall in south­ern Sicily.

During flow­er­ing, we have recorded abnor­mal rain­fall vol­umes com­pared to the Sicilian aver­age,” Giuseppe Ardagna, the head of the qual­ity and pro­duc­tion unit of the com­pany, told Olive Oil Times. It has not rained this much since 1921.”

Such vol­umes have reduced the flow­er­ing by 15 to 20 per­cent,” he added. The olive trees are healthy and strong, though, so we can still rebound. Even more so, if we have a dry and hot sum­mer. In such a case, we can aim for a high-qual­ity prod­uct.”

Should humid­ity per­sist and tem­per­a­tures stay mod­er­ate in the sum­mer, we would have ideal con­di­tions for the spread of dif­fer­ent pathogens, such as fungi, bac­te­ria and insects,” he added.

Italy is among the most rel­e­vant olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries in the world. The com­ing crop year is closely fol­lowed by the whole sec­tor, espe­cially with the poor results reported in most major pro­duc­ing coun­tries in the 2022/23 crop year.

In its lat­est report, the Italian Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market (Ismea) wrote how the olive oil mar­ket is going through one of its most dynamic peri­ods in recent years.

This dynamism has mostly been fueled by Spain’s his­tor­i­cally poor har­vest in the 2022/23 crop year and the 27-per­cent drop in Italian pro­duc­tion.

As olive oil prices con­tin­ued to rise in 2023, Ismea warned of quickly low­er­ing vol­umes of olive oil stor­age and the effects a short­age would have on bot­tlers and exporters. 

For the olive oil sec­tor, just as for all sec­tors, the ris­ing costs con­tinue to be an unsolved chal­lenge,” Ismea wrote. On top of that, there is an early warn­ing about the next olive oil sea­son because of the more fre­quent extreme weather events and the drought.”


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