Farmers in Lazio Kick Off Harvest at Emperor Hadrian's Estate

Agricultural associations used the event to emphasize the challenges facing traditional olive farmers in Italy.

View of the Canopus in the Hadrian's Villa (Italian: Villa Adriana). In Tivoli, Italy
By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 10, 2022 17:36 UTC
View of the Canopus in the Hadrian's Villa (Italian: Villa Adriana). In Tivoli, Italy

In the heart of Roman Emperor Hadrian’s spec­tac­u­lar villa, not far from Rome, farm­ers har­vested the olives of the Alberto Bello, the most famous of the ancient trees thriv­ing on the huge estate.

The cer­e­mony sig­naled the begin­ning of the 2022 har­vest in the cen­tral Lazio region. Growers and pro­duc­ers used the unique his­tor­i­cal set­ting to express their alarm about the chal­lenges fac­ing tra­di­tional olive groves in Italy.

Centuries-old olive trees are not only guardians of our his­tory, but they might also con­tribute to help­ing us to bet­ter face cli­mate change.- David Granieri, pres­i­dent, Unaprol

Coldiretti, a farm­ers’ union, and Unaprol, an olive oil pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, warned that a grow­ing num­ber of olive groves are aban­doned through­out the coun­try as pro­duc­tion costs rise and profit mar­gins drop.

Thirty mil­lion trees are at risk,” they said. The groups added that the impact of cli­mate change is tak­ing a toll on pro­duc­tiv­ity while rais­ing future uncer­tainty.

See Also:Olive Oil Production Revived in The Former Papal States

During the cer­e­mony, the asso­ci­a­tions empha­sized how the Roman civ­i­liza­tion sig­nif­i­cantly con­tributed to the devel­op­ment of olive grow­ing and milling tech­niques. Olive oil became a source of wealth, and the meth­ods Romans devel­oped con­tin­ued to be used until the end of the 19th cen­tury.

Coldiretti and Unaprol added that Italian olive cul­ture comes from that tra­di­tion, as ancient Roman authors such as Marco Porzio Catone and Marco Terenzio Varrone in the third and sec­ond cen­turies CE wrote the first pro­duc­tion instruc­tions.

Those were the the­o­ret­i­cal and tech­ni­cal prin­ci­ples which today still con­sti­tute the basis for high-qual­ity olive oil, with a unique range of fla­vor, tastes, nuances and inten­si­ties,” the two asso­ci­a­tions wrote.

Roman cul­ture, they said, led to the many local olive oil pro­duc­ers who have made Italian olive oil famous through­out the world.

Still, 20 per­cent of the 150 mil­lion olive trees of Italy is cur­rently aban­doned, as the effects of the war in Ukraine and the inter­na­tional ten­sions make it dif­fi­cult to invest in olive grow­ing,” the two asso­ci­a­tions wrote, cit­ing data com­ing from Crea, the Italian Council for Research in Agriculture.

With the costs for olive farms mul­ti­ply­ing now by 200 per­cent, almost one out of 10 – 9 per­cent – works at a loss and risks clos­ing down,” they added.

In the shade of the Albero Bello, the two asso­ci­a­tions said the over­all vol­umes of olive pro­duc­tion in the coun­try are falling while energy costs have risen 170 per­cent.

Furthermore, fer­til­izer costs rose by 129 per­cent, glass by 30 per­cent, labels by 35 per­cent, card­board by 45 per­cent, tin cans by 60 per­cent and plas­tics by 70 per­cent. On top of that, elec­tric­ity now costs five times more than it did last year.

Nicola Di Noia, head of the olive oil depart­ment in Coldiretti, said the two asso­ci­a­tions are com­mit­ted to reverse course.”

They are com­mit­ted to restor­ing and main­tain­ing the olive groves in some of the most rel­e­vant arche­o­logic parks in Italy,” he added. They are also try­ing to save the Monumental Olive Trees Valley hit by Xylella fas­tidiosa which is affect­ing Apulian olive farm­ing.”

By study­ing cen­turies-old trees such as Albero Bello in the Hadrian’s Villa… we might iden­tify use­ful aspects of the resilience to cli­mate change as well as the pro­duc­tive behav­ior [of the plants], the ver­sa­til­ity towards the needs of sus­tain­able inten­si­fi­ca­tion of olive cul­ti­va­tion and to improve the health char­ac­ter­is­tics of the [olive oil] prod­ucts,” Di Noia con­tin­ued.

David Granieri, Unaprol’s pres­i­dent, said mit­i­gat­ing the impacts of cli­mate change is pre­cisely why it is impor­tant to restore the pro­duc­tion of Italy’s his­toric olive trees.

Centuries-old olive trees are not only guardians of our his­tory, but they might also con­tribute to help­ing us to bet­ter face cli­mate change,” he said. That is the rea­son we need to work to restore and bring back pro­duc­tion to as many of those trees as pos­si­ble.”

The goal is not only to improve our knowl­edge but also to reduce our depen­dency from olive oil imports so as to relaunch with ade­quate invest­ments Made in Italy extra vir­gin olive oil,” Granieri con­cluded.

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