The hills of Puglia are important in Italy’s Olive Oil production. The region’s some odd 60 million olive trees help supply almost half of Italy’s olive oil. However, it’s not always rainbows, butterflies and olive oil in Puglia. Crisis has struck the region as 2018 was one of the worst years for the industry. Stakeholders fear for what lies ahead in 2019.

Pugliam olive oil farmers during a protest in February. The sign reads “In love with our land.”// CNN

There’s been such wild swings. You know, in 2014, we were here talking about a dreadful harvest in Italy that was mostly due to the olive oil fruit fly, which was a big problem following a warmer-than-usual winter. This year, it’s a deep freeze. And among farmers in Italy, they feel like these extreme swings are happening more often. Experts that we talked to believe that climate change is a factor.

-Curtis Cord of Olive Oil TimesNPR INTERVIEW

According to Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market (ISMEA), domestic olive harvests last year fell to a 25-year low, producing 185,000 tons of product. Only 57% of the normal amount.

Climate change induced, unusual weather conditions, have hit Southern Italy. Heavy rains, earlier winters and what was called the “beast from east”, have caused millions of tree mortalities.

In addition to the flooding and unusual cold snaps, an insect-transmitted bacteria Xylella fastidiosa has ravaged 4 million Puglian Olive trees over the past 7 years.

Olive Oil Times reports that Puglia’s ancient olive groves saw yields fall by around 65% this season. As if that wasn’t enough, 10,000 ancient trees were controversially removed in 2017 to make way for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline.

Symptoms of quick decline on olive tree  in Puglia //Courtesy: Françoise Petter (EPPO).

This crisis is not only bad news for the environment, but also for Italy’s economy. So far, the damage is extensive, costing $1.36 million and thousands of jobs and livelihoods. The price of Even worse according to Coldiretti data, stakeholders fear of running out of Olive Oil by April 2019. A market collapse or the importation of cheap and fraudulent oil is likely in the future. Even though the government has stepped in, announcing a state of emergency for the area, the future of Italian Olive Oil in uncertain.


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