Production in Italy Bolstered by Strong Recovery in South

Olive oil production is expected to rebound in Puglia and other southern regions, while Central and Northern producers stand to face a disappointing season.

Sicily, Italy
By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 4, 2021 10:35 UTC
Sicily, Italy

Italian olive oil pro­duc­tion is expected to reach between 290,000 and 310,000 tons in the 2021/22 crop year, accord­ing to Italia Olivicola and AIFO, the Italian asso­ci­a­tion of olive oil mill oper­a­tors.

While the expected yield is well below the 366,000 tons pro­duced in 2019/20, it rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant increase from last crop year’s total of 255,000 tons and slightly exceeds the rolling five-year aver­age of 281,000 tons.

This year, cen­tral Italian pro­duc­ers face a huge col­lapse in pro­duc­tion. They will reach between 20 and 30 per­cent of their pro­duc­tion capac­ity.- Alessandro Ceraudo, Tuscan agron­o­mist and pro­ducer

Italia Olivicola, a pro­ducer asso­ci­a­tion, and AIFO also esti­mated that the south­ern regions in Italy would enjoy the best har­vests.

See Also:2021 Harvest Updates

Olive orchards that have access to irri­ga­tion are show­ing good results. Almost all other groves have resisted the drought, which is still hit­ting sev­eral regions,” Stefano Caroli, pres­i­dent of the Puglia olive oil mill oper­a­tors asso­ci­a­tion (AFP), told Olive Oil Times.

In oth­ers, extreme weather events, such as heavy rain­fall and hail­storms are des­tined to make it dif­fi­cult for farm­ers,” he added.

As the first early har­vest­ing gets under­way in Siracusa, Sicily, the extra­or­di­nar­ily hot and dry sum­mer is giv­ing way to milder tem­per­a­tures and some rain­fall in sev­eral regions.

While those con­di­tions may facil­i­tate the last stages of the drupe devel­op­ment, help­ing farm­ers in the last weeks before their har­vests get under­way, they could also lead to out­breaks of the olive fruit fly.

Thus far, the pro­lific pest has been kept at bay by the unusu­ally hot July and August. Such high tem­per­a­tures do not allow the insects to repro­duce.

Still, Italian farm­ers and their European coun­ter­parts strug­gle to find the best strate­gies to com­bat the pathogen since the pro­hi­bi­tion of dimethoate-based pes­ti­cides by the European Union.

This year, cen­tral Italian pro­duc­ers face a huge col­lapse in pro­duc­tion,” Alessandro Ceraudo, an expert agron­o­mist and pro­ducer in Tuscany, told Olive Oil Times. They will reach between 20 and 30 per­cent of their pro­duc­tion capac­ity, mostly because of the late spring frost, which hit olive trees as well as so many other crops.”

On the other hand, those tem­per­a­tures have lim­ited the action of the usual pathogens, so those who know how to care for their olive trees will cer­tainly pro­duce very high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils,” he added.

According to a few experts from the Aprol Umbria asso­ci­a­tion, who spoke to Olive Oil Times dur­ing the recent farm­ing fair Agriumbria2021, quan­ti­ties will be very low when com­pared to our bet­ter years. We expect qual­ity to be espe­cially high this year, though. Olive oil fla­vors will be strong and sur­pris­ing.”

The experts will be very closely mon­i­tor­ing olive groves in the next two or three weeks, get­ting ready for har­vest­ing at any moment should the fruit fly make its appear­ance.

In an inter­view to the local news­pa­per ArezzoNotizie, Tuscan olive oil pro­ducer Giovan Battista Donati noted how bad sea­sons such as this one are becom­ing more and more fre­quent.”


Vazart & Sons

Once we had alter­nate bear­ing sea­sons, when a har­vest could bring 100 [a very good har­vest] and the fol­low­ing 60 [a mediocre one],” he added. There was a har­monic trend. Now we might reach 120 and the year after drop to 30 [a poor one].”

Last year, we had a great har­vest so we expected a drop, not to these lev­els though. As the cli­mate changes, so change the har­vest­ing sea­sons,” Donati con­tin­ued. For 2021, we risk a drop of up to 70 or 80 per­cent, com­pared to a nor­mal sea­son. Which is to say, at my age of 74 years old, I do not see any­thing being nor­mal any­more.”


The late spring frost that hit in late April and May will end up cur­tail­ing pro­duc­tion else­where as well.

In recent years, the pro­duc­tion vari­abil­ity of our olive groves is increas­ingly evi­dent, due to the effects of the cli­mate and par­a­sitic adver­si­ties,” said Dino Scanavino, the pres­i­dent of the Italian Agricultural Confederation (CIA).

This analy­sis has specif­i­cally held true in some parts of north­ern Italy, where after months of severe drought, sud­den and extreme weather events have almost anni­hi­lated pro­duc­tion.

According to the Italia Olivicola-AIFO esti­mates, the best results are to be expected in Puglia, recov­er­ing from last year and com­ing back to its sta­tus as the main olive oil pro­duc­ing region in Italy. Relevant south­ern and cen­tral pro­duc­ing regions, includ­ing Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Abruzzo and Molise, are also expected to enjoy a slight recov­ery.

However, pro­duc­ers in the south­ern region of Campania are likely to expe­ri­ence a very dif­fer­ent out­come. Just like most Italian regions, Campania had expe­ri­enced extra­or­di­nary flow­er­ing, and had avoided most of the dam­age caused by the spring frost.

In the last days of August, though, a series of unprece­dented extreme hail storms hit farms in sev­eral rel­e­vant pro­duc­ing areas. Hailstones the size of ten­nis balls dam­aged olive trees, which dropped their fruits to the ground.

On the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, a long series of cli­mate dis­as­ters and inci­dents have tested the region. Large wild­fires impacted some rel­e­vant agri­cul­tural areas dur­ing sum­mer and extreme weather events have ham­pered olive pro­duc­tion, which is fore­casted to suf­fer con­sid­er­ably.

Finally, north­ern regions, whose pro­duc­tion is tra­di­tion­ally lim­ited, are expected to see their fig­ures drop or even col­lapse after the ups and down of the ungen­er­ous spring and sum­mer.

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