Olive Farmers in Puglia Face Catastrophic Harvest After Autumn Storms

The damage to the southern Italian region’s olive trees is expected to drive up prices in the short term and lower production in future harvests.
Coldiretti Giovani Impresa, via Facebook
By Nedjeljko Jusup
Sep. 25, 2023 16:36 UTC

Autumn in Puglia, Italy’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, could not have started any worse.

Thunderstorms and rain accom­pa­nied by hur­ri­cane-force winds and hail the size of wal­nuts left behind des­o­la­tion in olive groves, vine­yards and veg­etable gar­dens.

In a few min­utes, months and months of hard work dis­ap­peared. The dam­age suf­fered by olive groves, vine­yards and all other crops was very great.- Tommaso Loiodice, pres­i­dent, Unaprol

Olive groves were par­tic­u­larly affected, with the har­vest already under­way in the south­ern Italian region. Farmers have called the storms dis­as­trous, with some say­ing they have lost their entire crop.

Producer asso­ci­a­tions Italia Olivicola and the Apulian chap­ter of the Italian Agricultural Confederation (CIA Puglia) have asked local author­i­ties to inter­vene and help farm­ers recover by declar­ing a nat­ural dis­as­ter.

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

The most sig­nif­i­cant dam­age came in the rural areas of north­ern Puglia, espe­cially in the provinces of Capitanata, Barletta-Andria-Trani and the met­ro­pol­i­tan area of Bari. The strong wind and hail destroyed thou­sands of olive fruits, tomato plants and grapevines.

In the province of Foggia, the most sig­nif­i­cant dam­age was done in the rural areas of San Severo, Lucera, Sannicandro and Torremaggiore. In Bari, the worst con­se­quences of the sud­den wave of bad weather were recorded in Molfetta, Terlizzi, Ruvo, Corat, Giovinazz and Bitonto.


Coldiretti Giovani Impresa, via Facebook

In a few min­utes, months and months of hard work dis­ap­peared,” said Tommaso Loiodice, the pres­i­dent of Unaprol, an olive oil pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion. The dam­age suf­fered by olive groves, vine­yards and all other crops was very great.”

The flower grow­ers’ green­houses were com­pletely destroyed,” he added. Agriculture is vital and essen­tial to the local econ­omy. I hope that insti­tu­tions of all lev­els will imme­di­ately do their part.”

After vis­it­ing the affected areas, Loiodice called the dam­age cat­a­strophic,” adding that it was yet another set­back for olive grow­ers in the region.

The olives, in this case, were ripe and ready for har­vest­ing,” he said.” We con­tinue to receive appeals from our des­per­ate olive grow­ers.”


Coldiretti Giovani Impresa, via Facebook

Extreme weather con­di­tions are becom­ing more fre­quent, with the cost falling pri­mar­ily on farm­ers.

A year of hard work can­not be ruined by a few min­utes of bad weather,” Loiodice said. Therefore, we join the choir of other [agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tions] to request greater insur­ance and guar­an­tees for com­pen­sa­tion so that the efforts of our olive pro­duc­ers are pro­tected and val­orized to the great­est extent.”

Coldiretti Puglia, a farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, and CIA Puglia are already cal­cu­lat­ing the dam­age in the olive groves where the trees were left with­out leaves and fruits, but also in the destroyed green­houses and land­slides caused by this nat­ural dis­as­ter.

Hail in rural areas leaves behind the worst con­se­quences. It destroys the whole year’s work,” Coldiretti said. When it comes to olive groves, the dam­age is multi-year because instead of uprooted trees, new ones need to be planted, and even those left with­out fruits and leaves need more than a year to recover.”

Puglia pro­duces up to 150,000 tons of olive oil in a typ­i­cal crop year, roughly half of Italian olive oil pro­duc­tion. Producers who expected Italy to pro­duce 300,000 to 350,000 tons of olive oil are also dis­ap­pointed.

Gennaro Sicolo, pres­i­dent of Italia Olivicola, said the decline in pro­duc­tion will lead to an increase in whole­sale prices of 30 to 40 per­cent. Olive oil prices at ori­gin are expected to rise to €9, with prices reach­ing between €10 and €11 per liter on super­mar­ket shelves.

Prices will not rise only because of the sit­u­a­tion in Italy but also because of the lack of pro­duc­tion in the entire Mediterranean basin: Spain has been hit by a seri­ous drought, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco and Portugal have also suf­fered,” Sicolo said.

He added that a ban on olive oil exports from Turkey means Italian bot­tlers could not turn there either to make up for lost domes­tic pro­duc­tion.


Related Articles