World production of olive oil for 2014/2015 was down by nearly one third (29%) on 2013/2014, according to the June report from the International Olive Council (IOC),
“[This is] chiefly because of a 42 % drop in production in EU countries largely caused by adverse weather conditions. Greece and Cyprus are the only exceptions. Spain has recorded the biggest drop in output versus 2013/14 (−946 500 t or −53 %) with Italy in next position (−239 200 t or −52 %).”
The bacterium Xylella fastidiosa – nicknamed olive ebola – has already destroyed thousands of olive trees in Italy and up to one million are in danger of being felled to prevent further spread of the disease, while the Spanish harvest has been badly affected by a drought.
Prices paid to producers had risen, said the IOC report.
“In recent months, producer prices in Italy have been on a very clear upward trend. In the week from 10 to 16 November 2014, they hit the highest level of both the period under review and the last decade, reaching €6.79/kg.
“Producer prices in Spain … peaked at a high of €3.59 kg in the third week of June 2015.” This was 80% higher than the low of €1.96/kg in May 2014.”
These higher prices were being passed onto consumers, with the average retail price of extra virgin olive oil has risen from £6.32 per litre in December to £6.95 this month, according to The Grocer.
‘State of calamity’
Last week the Italian Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina declared a ‘state of calamity’ in the regions of Lecce and Brindisi, and pledged to unblock €11 m in compensation for olive farmers worst hit by the Xylella fastidiosa.
EU Commissioner for healthy and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis, who visited southern Italy last week, said: “Every day matters. Because every day is a day in which we are putting the healthy olive trees of Puglia at risk.”
According to figures from the US Department of Agriculture, world exports of olive oil have risen by 20% since 2007 and production in Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey has increased by almost one third since 2005.