By any measure, olive oil is probably one of the most important staples in most cuisines worldwide.
Unfortunately, you may soon need to stock up: Extreme heat, particularly across Europe, can soon wreak havoc on your olive oil. Don’t take it for granted.
in a (n aptly titled Grist story Entitled “Climate change is hitting your olive oil too,” Max Graham writes that oil prices have recently risen due to “heat flation,” which he defines as “when scorching temperatures damage crops and push up food prices.” . Due to droughts and intense heat across Europe, particularly Spain, olive oil could become a desirable fat in the near future.
According to Graham, Spanish olive oil production has already fallen by half. Of course, this will also affect the price of your favorite olive oils as well as their availability. Spain is the world leader in olive oil.
“The price of olive oil has risen to an all-time high, double what it was a year ago,” wrote Javier Blas for Bloomberg. “In 2019, before the pandemic, the ratio was less than fivefold.”
Even California olive plantations are struggling, largely due to excessive, unprecedented rainfall, despite the fact that less than 3% of the olive oil consumed in the United States is actually produced in California.
Unfortunately, this is by no means a new development. As Samantha Larson wrote for EpicuriousIn 2018, olive harvests of some California olives were so poor that companies “used olives grown in Argentina, Chile and Portugal to blend with their California production.” This was not well received by many customers.
Of even greater concern is the fact that the previous year’s olive production was sub-optimal in 2019 – but in 2023 it has fallen even further.
In March 2021, Elazar Sontag wrote in Eater that Italian olive production had declined.
“Olive trees bear fruit alternately, with a bountiful year usually being followed by a smaller year. Farmers know they can predict this cycle, but now the successful harvests are sometimes almost as paltry as the predictably small ones,” Sontag wrote.
While the trees themselves are often resilient, the fruit — or the oil — itself isn’t always so. Whether it’s from extreme heat, drought, frost, excessive rainfall, or invasive insects, olives have a lot of opponents, if you will. As CNN reported, The International Olive Council “did not describe the situation as a crisis, but a spokesman said: ‘We are facing a complex situation due to climate change.'”
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As the title of Mitski’s forthcoming album, The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, predicts, it’s believed that many traditionally lush olive-growing regions — like northern Italy — may not be able to produce such olives for years to come fertile soil soon becomes too hot for the fruit to thrive.
Giuseppe Morisani and Skyler Mapes, co-founders of Calabrian olive oil company EXAU, told Sontag, “People say, ‘I want to protect the environment’.” And I think, “You should plant an olive tree.”
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