If you’re a fan of great olive oil — particularly of oils from Tuscany and Umbria — you’d better get ready to start dipping into your wallet. That stuff’s going to get expensive..
As a result of what the Italian newspaper La Repubblica is calling “The Black Year of Italian Olive Oil,” the olive harvest through much of Italy has been devastated — down 35% from last year.
And though the rest of Europe hasn’t been hit quite that hard, production in most countries is forecast to be far below last year’s.
One group projects Spain’s output to be half of last year’s record harvest, and the overall world output may fall 20%, according to industry researcher Oil World.
Even in California, the rapidly growing olive oil industry has been slowed by drought.
As a result, shoppers are going to have to pay more for good olive oil than they have in the past — when they can find it. And they’re going to have to be even more careful than usual about reading labels to be sure they’re getting the real thing.
There are multiple causes for the disastrous fall.
In Italy, the weather was horrible — and at all the most crucial points. When the trees were turning flowers to fruit in the spring, freezing weather suddenly turned scorching, causing the trees to drop olives. Summer was hot and humid, leading to all sorts of problems. Then in mid-September, there there was a major hail storm, knocking much of the fruit that remained onto the ground.
Compounding the problems with the weather was a troublesome infestation of a fruit fly spreading a disease known as “olive tree leprosy.”Europe suffers olive oil disaster: How you can survive it,