Extreme climate paws Italians’ olive crops


A farmer from Italy is holding hands after extreme weather conditions – for which climate change is to blame – completely ruined his annual harvest.

The 43-year-old farmer, Alan Risolo, believes that at this time of the year, the olive trees on his land in Sabina, central Italy, should show off hordes of olives.

And while dejectedly holding up a branch with only a few shriveled green and black olives on it, he tells AFP that his production has decreased by 80%.

Known for its olive groves since Roman times, this region boasts trees that are hundreds, even thousands of years old, but changing weather patterns prove extremely challenging.

“Our country is really going to suffer severely from climate change for several years,” Risolo told AFP.

He refers to torrential rain in contrast to “long periods of heat that last into autumn”.

“My workers and I would normally be in coats for the autumn harvest, but earlier this week we harvested the olives in our T-shirts. It was 29 °C here, hopelessly too hot for a coat.”

However, the reduction in production did not only affect Sabina. Most of the central and northern regions of Italy’s production has declined – the world’s second largest producer of olive oil.

“This year, national production is estimated at 290,000 tonnes, which is 25,000 tonnes less compared to last year’s production.”

According to the agricultural association, Coldiretti, this is the lowest figure in the last four years.

“Italy has 150 million olive trees which are responsible for €3 billion ($3.19 billion) in annual turnover and support 400,000 businesses,” says Coldiretti.

“The risk is that some farmers switch to other crops.”

Despite the poor performance in the center and north of Italy, production could be saved this year by the country’s southern regions, namely Puglia – which makes half of Italy’s oil – and Calabria.

Farmers were also supported by price increases in the world market for olive oil, as production in Spain, which normally produces half the world’s supply, also suffered.

Production in Spain decreased by approximately 34% due to a prolonged drought.

The rising prices are bad news for consumers, including in Italy, which itself consumes 15% of the olive oil produced worldwide.