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Workers shake olive trees during a harvest diminished by heat and drought in Jaen, Spain on Nov. 24, 2022. Carlos Gil / Getty Images
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Heat Waves in Europe Threaten Olive Harvest for Second Consecutive Year

Workers shake olive trees during a harvest diminished by heat and drought in Jaen, Spain on Nov. 24, 2022. Carlos Gil / Getty Images
Workers shake olive trees during a harvest diminished by heat and drought in Jaen, Spain on Nov. 24, 2022.
Carlos Gil / Getty Images

Olive harvests are expected to face a second challenging year in a row as heat waves threaten crops across Europe.


This year’s heat waves arrived a month earlier than the first heat waves of last year’s hot, dry season, according to Earth.org. The first heat wave arrived in late April, following a warmer- and drier-than-usual March. The winter was also unusually warm.

During the first heat wave of 2023, the trees were just beginning to flower, putting them in a vulnerable position.

“This happened as the olive trees were in bloom,” said Rafael Pico, director of Asoliva, the Spanish association of olive oil producers and exporters in Spain, as reported by Phys.org. “If there are no flowers, there’s no fruit. And if there’s no fruit, there’s no oil.”

Spain, the largest olive oil producer in Europe, has had its annual supply decline by half because of the heat and drought. Last year, heat waves caused the country’s olive oil production to decline from 1.48 million metric tons in 2021 to 2022 to just 660,000 metric tons from 2022 to 2023. Experts are predicting olive oil supply to reach 850,000 metric tons this year, still far below average, but continuing heat waves could impact the harvest.


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“In Spain we already know it is going to be another bad year, but no one has got to grips with the what’s currently happening. The record temperatures are not going to help the situation,” Walter Zanre, the chief executive of the UK branch of Filippo Berio, the largest olive oil producer globally, told The Guardian. “I can’t share how much anxiety this is causing us. Last year, Spain came into crop with a bit of carry-over [from the year before], which negated the shortfall somewhat. This year the barrels are dry. Even if Spain produces the predicted 850,000 tonnes, the price situation is worse.”

Spain isn’t alone. Other major olive oil-producing countries, such as Italy and Portugal, have experienced smaller yields because of the harsh conditions.

Since June 2022, olive oil prices have surged in response to the poor olive harvests, as the crop has been affected by the extreme heat. Olive oil prices have hit over $6,000 per metric ton, the highest price this product has been since 1997, Weather.com reported.

As The Guardian reported, consumers may expect to see shortages of olive oil in the fall, as last year’s supply is expected to run out in September, and the new supply for 2023 isn’t expected to be ready until November.

Many crops are facing shortages amid the climate crisis. The current heat waves in Europe are also threatening vineyards, even putting types of grapes that have long been known to survive in extreme conditions at risk. Maturing tomatoes in Italy are at risk from blistering in the extreme temperatures, and these crops were already impacted by severe floods earlier this year.

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Source:

Paige Bennett at EcoWatch



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