Europe

Olive Oil Sales Jump While Italian Economy Shrinks From COVID-19

Italians are shopping in masks and gloves, but they're still shopping, and buying more than they used to. Olive oil sales in Italy have jumped 22 percent since COVID-19 hit, and stores are finding that Mediterranean diet staples are now the top sellers

Mar. 21, 2020
By Paolo DeAndreis

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While experts pre­dict that the Ital­ian econ­omy could decline as much as 5 per­cent if the coun­try’s sweep­ing quar­an­tine extends through the end of April, the sales of sta­ples, includ­ing olive oil, are flour­ish­ing.

We ask all cit­i­zens to focus their buy­ing choices on Ital­ian prod­ucts, to con­sume high-qual­ity food and sus­tain the whole food chain.- Enrico Alla­sia, Confa­gri­coltura

Accord­ing to sta­tis­tics pub­lished by grow­ers asso­ci­a­tion Coldiretti, Ital­ians are now pur­chas­ing non-per­ish­able food more than ever.

In the weeks since the COVID-19 pan­demic slammed Italy, sales of pasta have jumped by 51 per­cent, tomato sauce by 39 per­cent and olive oil by 22 per­cent. Rice, milk, sugar and frozen fish sales have each increased by at least 20 per­cent in the last three weeks.

These fig­ures are in stark con­trast to the dis­cour­ag­ing pro­jec­tions for changes in Italy’s gross domes­tic prod­uct (GDP) due to the virus. The GDP is pre­dicted to decrease as much as 2 per­cent in March. Experts warned that, should the lock­down be extended for a full month in April, Italy could record losses up to $161 bil­lion and its 2020 GDP could dip 4 or 5 per­cent.

See more: COVID-19 Lock­down Brings Crit­i­cal Pro­mo­tion Sea­son to a Stand­still

Even so, canned food sales have risen by 22 per­cent, while sales of eth­nic food and expen­sive imported prod­ucts dropped 55 per­cent to record lows. Flour sales have increased by 80 per­cent, a sta­tis­tic that has caused Coldiretti to posit that, when cat­a­stro­phe strikes, Ital­ians return to the basics and shop locally.

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Italy’s mass quar­an­tine is dri­ving the shift in shop­ping habits, locals say. On March 11, the gov­ern­ment shut down all restau­rants for two weeks, and the entire coun­try remains a quar­an­tine red zone,” per­mit­ting cit­i­zens to leave their homes only for emer­gen­cies or to buy food.

Many Ital­ians used to buy­ing gro­ceries every day: fresh food, dairy and bread, but now they are chang­ing their habits,” gro­cery store man­ager Lara Car­rai told Olive Oil Times. They buy food that they can stock in their houses or at least food that will last for sev­eral days for the whole fam­ily, so they do not have to come back for a week or so.”

Car­rai, whose store is in one of the hard­est-hit regions near Milan, said that in the early days of the epi­demic, peo­ple flooded stores and bought them out of essen­tial items. As the ini­tial panic has sub­sided and peo­ple have become used to their new restric­tions, shop­pers have begun com­ing in for a few days’ worth of gro­ceries, focus­ing on sta­ples like pasta and olive oil, she said.

Farm­ing indus­try lead­ers are appeal­ing to Ital­ian cit­i­zens to sup­port local farm­ers and food pro­duc­ers by buy­ing Ital­ian.

Enrico Alla­sia, Pied­mont regional pres­i­dent of the farm­ers’ fed­er­a­tion Confa­gri­coltura, wants Ital­ians to be aware of the neg­a­tive impact COVID-19 will have on the econ­omy, and to real­ize that their buy­ing habits can play a role in stem­ming that effect.

We ask all cit­i­zens to focus their buy­ing choices on Ital­ian prod­ucts, to con­sume high-qual­ity food and sus­tain the whole food chain,” Alla­sia said.

Bruno Pirac­cini, man­ager of Ital­ian food com­pany Oro­gel, warned that although farms and fac­to­ries are still oper­at­ing in full-day shifts, pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion time­lines could see slow­downs due to pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures that reduce pro­duc­tiv­ity lev­els.

There are pre­ven­tion mea­sures, like check­ing work­ers’ tem­per­a­tures when they reach the farm. We resched­uled our shifts to avoid hav­ing too many work­ers inside our instal­la­tions at the same time. We work on a 24-hour sched­ule and while work­ers take their break to eat, other work­ers must dis­in­fect the work­ing areas,” Pirac­cini said.

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