A ‘black year’ in Spain and Italy impacts olive oil supply and price
Hot, dry weather in Spain and excessive rain, an olive fly attack and bacterial blight in Italy led to 2014 being labelled a ‘black year’ for olive oil producers. And down the line it’s now fuelling warnings from industry experts of a massive impending shortage in our favourite culinary oil. Time to consider a few less traditional olive oil producers like Chile, New Zealand and South Africa.
Walter Zanre, UK managing director for the eponymous producer Filippo Berrio told The Grocer magazine that another bad harvest could lead to the need to ration supply.
"In 15 years in this business this is the worst year I have seen. There is not enough oil to meet demand. Sourcing good quality extra virgin in the second half of the year will be very difficult,” he said.
Spain and Italy account for almost 70% of total olive oil production, and forecasts show that supply from Spain will more than halve, and reduce by about a third from Italy, where unusually large flocks of starlings added to farmers woes, reportedly further destroying the fruits in parts of the South, and leading to calls for a cull.
Output in Greece has been more stable, but the other smaller producing countries aren’t able to make up the difference. Morocco and Tunisia have also suffered bad weather, while Syria, which claims to be the birthplace of the olive tree and has 74 million trees, is of course being affected by civil war.
The International Olive Oil Council estimates that there will be a shortfall of 783,000 tonnes this year when measured against the average global production of the past five years. They also admit that there will be an upswing in bulk prices as a result.
And that increase, the experts say, is very likely to be passed on at the supermarkets, meaning a bottle of extra virgin olive oil could soon cost shoppers more than a high-end bottle of wine, turning what has in the past few decades become a kitchen staple for most of us, into a luxury item.
So it may be time to look locally, or to other new world suppliers for your quality extra virgin olive oil needs. Planet Wine imports a range of estate grown and produced award-winning olive oils from South African winery Morgenster. Their extra virgin has twice been awarded the top score of 98 out of a possible 100 points in the authoritative international Flos Olei competition which assesses the world’s best olive oils. You’ll find it here: Morgenster Extra Virgin Olive Oil