Villages through­out Umbria are putting on the best pos­si­ble face on a har­vest many local farm­ers would rather for­get.

This time of year is usu­ally the most joy­ous for Umbrian farm­ers and pro­duc­ers, whose ded­i­ca­tion tran­spires through the fra­grances of the region’s world-famous extra vir­gin olive oils waft­ing through the coun­try­side.

It’s also the time of the sea­son when mills open their doors in an annual tra­di­tion, the Frantoi Aperti, invit­ing toruists and locals alike to rejoice in the har­vest and taste the cel­e­brated Moraiolo, Frantoio and Leccino extra vir­gins olive oils fresh from the press.

But while the guided tours, con­certs and cook­ing classes will go on as always, many farm­ers in the region are in no mood to cel­e­brate. Instead they are in the throes of a hor­ren­dously bad har­vest rav­aged by the olive fly that thrived in this sea­son’s unusual humid­ity.

“It will be a year that grow­ers and mills will want to for­get,” said Brian Chatterton, the for­mer South Australian min­is­ter for agri­cul­ture and now an olive oil pro­ducer in Umbria.

Chatteron said many grow­ers are angry that the advi­sory ser­vices from the region and the asso­ci­a­tions failed to pre­dict the dis­as­ter and advise grow­ers on con­trol mea­sures. Other parts of Italy where the olive fly is a more fre­quent prob­lem have good mon­i­tor­ing ser­vices includ­ing coop­er­a­tives of grow­ers prac­tic­ing inte­grated pest man­age­ment (IPM) sys­tems.

Chatterton said most fran­toi that would nor­mally be going 24/​7 this time of year are oper­at­ing just eight hours these days. Many grow­ers, he told Olive Oil Times, are not both­er­ing to har­vest at all, pre­fer­ring to leave the pil­laged fruit to rot on the trees.

Things are no bet­ter for farm­ers in Liguria, where floods at the worst pos­si­ble time have dec­i­mated crops and pro­duc­tion is expected to be just half of last year’s.


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