Italian Olive Crisis Makes Mediterranean Diet More Expensive

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With the price of olive oil from Italy surging to more than double the Spanish variety, people on a Mediterranean diet may turn to Tunisia, Greece or sunflowers. The CHART OF THE DAY tracks extra-virgin oil from the two top producers, with Italy’s at 6,260 euros ($7,100) a metric ton on Feb. 19 and southern Spain’s at 2,704 euros.

The lower panel shows the premium averaged 131.5 percent this year, almost double the level in the first two months of 2014. The spread surged in November and widened to a record 176 percent on Dec. 29, according to data compiled by Bloomberg going back to October 2010.

Global production in the season through September will be the least in 15 years, the Madrid-based International Olive Council estimates. Drought in parts of the Mediterranean region and too much rain in other areas combined with insects and disease to reduce output.

Italy was particularly hard-hit by the olive fly and a bacterial infection, according to the council. olive oil chart

“Traditional consumers of olive oil such as Italy and Spain may seek cheaper sources from Greece and Tunisia, or change to consume sunflower seed oil,” said Vito Martielli, grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabobank International.

“Almost all types of oil prices, including vegetable oil, have gone down except olive oil,” he said by phone on Feb. 18. Italy, including the Apulia region, were hurt by insects, recording a decline in olive production and lower oil yields, Martielli said. Reduced supplies have pushed up prices of extra-virgin oil, he said.

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