Daily Archives: February 28, 2015

  • Italy warns deadly olive tree bacteria could spread across Europe

    The Xylella fastidiosa disease, which spread to Italy from the Americas, has infected up to a million trees in the southern region of Puglia, which is renowned for its olive oil.

    “Some of the trees are 1,000 years old. They are part of Italy’s natural heritage and we should not be left alone by the State to face this disaster,” Francesco Bara, an olive oil producer, told La Stampa newspaper.

    Other oil-producing areas in Italy such as Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio have been put on high alert.

    There are fears that unless more robust action is taken, the disease could spread to other important olive oil-producing nations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal, either in contaminated soil or in exported seedlings.

    “If it expands its range further, the entire Mediterranean basin risks being contaminated,” said Giovanni Melcarne, the president of an oil-producing consortium in Otranto, a hilltop town that is in the infected area.

    “We are calling for politicians to sit up and notice what is happening and to take necessary actions,” he said.

    There are plans to create a mile-wide cordon across the region, from the Ionic Sea to the Adriatic coast, in an attempt to halt the disease.

    Grass will be cut, the soil ploughed, and pesticides applied to try to stop the insects spreading the disease.

    Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, which normally deals with natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, has been given the task of coordinating the response to the crisis.

    The blight threatens to not just radically alter the landscape of Puglia, but to endanger thousands of jobs – in the province of Lecce alone, an estimated 7,500 people are employed in the olive oil sector.

    The sector is already struggling after being hit this year by one of the worst harvests for decades.

    An unusually cold, wet summer across much of Italy meant that olive trees lost their buds and failed to produce olives.

    Those trees that did produce fruit were then attacked by an aggressive insect, the Mediterranean olive fly, which burrowed into the olives, laying larvae which develop into maggots that ruin the olive.

    “It’s a disaster of Biblical proportions,” said Johnny Madge, a British producer who has been making olive oil in the Sabine Hills region, north of Rome, since 1985. “In this region, production will be almost zero.”

    Pietro Sandali, the head of Unaprol, the Italian olive growers’ consortium, described the harvest as the worst in living memory, with production likely to be down 35 per cent.

    The poor harvest means that the price of olive oil in British supermarkets is likely to rise, consumer associations said.

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    The Xylella fastidiosa disease, which spread to Italy from the Americas, has infected up to a million trees in the southern region of Puglia, which is renowned for its olive oil. “Some of the trees are 1,000 years old. They are part of Italy’s natural heritage and... 
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  • Police seized cargo which either had no labels or were marked as EVOO made in Italy

    Police on Friday seized eight tonnes of oil blends which either had no labels or were marked as extra virgin olive oil in southern Italy.

    NAS, a special police force operating under the supervision of the Italian ministry of health, confiscated the oil blends, some of which were labelled as made-in-Italy products in Salento, a district of Puglia region.

    “Two tonnes were labeled as extra virgin olive oil made in Italy, but in fact were blends of oil imported from Spain and Greece,” NAS Lieutenant Antonio Murrone told Xinhua.

    “The other six tonnes in silos do not have any label indication,” he added.

    Murrone said the action followed ordinary checks carried out by NAS on purchasing documents, confection containers and laboratory analyses.

    “Five entrepreneurs, all Italian nationals, have been denounced as a result of the investigation,” he said.

    David Granieri, Chairman of Rome-based Unaprol, Europe’s biggest consortium of olive oil producers, said that the industry encourages routine tests on all products that are sold as olive oil.

    “We collaborate with police forces to combat the phenomenon of counterfeiting and sophistication. A series of blends are sold as extra virgin olive oil,” he said.

    During the past four years, he pointed out, Unaprol has trained more than 300 olive oil tasters among Italian police forces, who have played a key role in olive oil-related investigations.

    In addition, thanks to a law promoted by Unaprol and enacted in 2013, Italian magistrates can also ask a panel of tasters to make checks during a trial.

    Granieri said illegal activities still happen.

    “Such activities normally are not carried out by olive oil producers, who are perfectly aware of their brand’s value, but by ruthless people who have no relation with olive oil and its history,” he said.

    He stressed the fraud is not only damaging the image of the product, but also makes no sense in a country which has 250 million olive trees planted in 19 out of its 20 regions.

    Italian olive oil production, though posted a drop like in other European countries in 2014, is usually worth around 2 billion euros (2.24 billion US dollars) a year, Granieri estimates.

    In the first month of 2014, olive oil imports reached 528,000 tonnes, and exports 349,000 tonnes.

    However, the value of exports, which is put at around 1.14 billion euros, exceeded that of imports, which is about 1.12 billion euros, according to Granieri. (1 euro = 1.12 US dollars)

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    Police on Friday seized eight tonnes of oil blends which either had no labels or were marked as extra virgin olive oil in southern Italy. NAS, a special police force operating under the supervision of the Italian ministry of health, confiscated the oil blends, some of which were... 
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