As has been the case across the Mediterranean region, the Italian olive sector has experienced a series of setbacks this year, with high temperatures and drought now threatening to jeopardize the next harvest.
Initial estimates from Cia-Agricoltori Italiani, a farmers’ association, are for a 30-percent drop for the 2022/23 crop year compared to the previous season in the main southern Italian olive-producing regions of Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Campania.
Even though olive trees are highly drought-resistant, water plays a crucial role in certain stages of the plant’s life cycle.See Also:2022 Harvest Updates
Abnormal heat during the flowering period in May and water deficit during the growth phase in July have combined to create a very unfavorable year for olive production.
As a result, the tree is forced to sacrifice elements of its standard biological processes to survive, thereby saving available resources.
In a worrying early sign, some groves are already reporting dry and shriveled fruits appearing. Even when the olives appear to grow normally, water stress dehydrates the pulp and compromises its development, thereby reducing oil formation.
Adding to the climatic problems is the looming threat of the olive fruit fly. At the pre-harvest stage in autumn, the insect could further damage the quantity and quality of production.
According to Cia, in the face of growing climate imbalance, the modernization of water reservoirs and associated infrastructure are vital for the future of olive cultivation, as well as better soil management and irrigation techniques aimed at limiting water loss.
The Italian olive sector is currently one of the most important globally, with production accounting for 15 percent of world production, second only to Spain.