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The olive oil business is in trouble because of high heat and drought.

An impending crisis is emerging within the olive oil business.

The elevated temperatures that have pervaded southern Europe during the current summer season are not just responsible for loss of life and the heightened risk of destructive wildfires. They also pose a significant threat to olive trees, as specialists in the olive oil sector caution against the likelihood of exorbitant price increases and potential scarcity.

According to Kyle Holland, an expert in oils and oilseeds at the market research organization Mintec, olive trees exhibit a response to excessive heat by either shedding their fruit to conserve moisture or prioritizing fruit production at the potential detriment to the tree’s health. Elevated temperatures pose a significant risk, especially during the spring season when plants are in the blossoming stage.

The current situation is particularly worrisome due to its occurrence immediately after a poor olive harvest in the previous year, which was preceded by the hottest summer ever recorded in Europe.

According to Holland, the output of olive oil in Spain, which is recognized as the largest producer globally, had a significant decline to approximately 620,000 metric tons. This figure stands in stark contrast to the average production of over 1.3 million metric tons over the past five years.

Walter Zanre, the chief executive of Filippo Berio UK, expressed concern on the potential consequences of another subpar crop, following the recent shortage in the previous harvest. Filippo Berio is recognized as one of the largest global olive oil brands.

However, the evidence suggests that this is the case. During the summer season, a significant rise in temperature affected extensive areas of the Mediterranean region, leading scientists to assert that this extreme heat event, sometimes referred to as a “heat hell,” would have been highly improbable in the absence of climate change.

Spain, along with other olive oil producing countries like Italy and Greece, has been impacted by the occurrence of consecutive heat waves since April, with temperatures reaching approximately 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

The complete assessment of the damage will only be ascertainable subsequent to the harvest period in October and November. However, it is projected that European olive oil production may decline by approximately 700,000 metric tons, which corresponds to a reduction of over 30% when compared to the average production over the past five years, as stated by Holland.

According to Zanre, there has been a twofold increase in the bulk pricing of olive oil when compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. Additionally, all available evidence suggests that there will be a deficit in the upcoming harvest.

The individual expressed that there is now no apparent relief in sight, further stating that the industry is currently experiencing a state of crisis.

The International Olive Council refrained from categorizing the situation as a crisis; nonetheless, a spokeswoman acknowledged that the current circumstances are intricate due to the effects of climate change. According to the spokesman, there is a projected decline of 20% in global olive oil production for the period spanning from October 2022 to September 2023.

The extent to which this will impact customers is uncertain. According to Holland, a significant concern arises as prices of olive oil rise: whether consumers would persist in purchasing olive oil at these elevated rates or opt for alternative oils.

Indeed, the issue of excessive heat’s impact on food is far more extensive. According to Holland, the current situation has reached a point where the concerns are becoming substantial, not only for olive oil but also for numerous other crops.

According to Corey Lesk, a climate researcher at Dartmouth College, extreme heat poses the greatest vulnerability to crops in terms of climate impacts, mostly due to its association with water stress. According to the speaker, agricultural crops face a challenging situation where they are caught in a precarious balance between an arid environment that lacks moisture and parched soils. This predicament has the potential to result in enduring harm to the crops.

According to Lorenzo Bazzana, the economic manager for Coldiretti, the Italian farmers group, Italy has seen adverse effects from heatwaves, droughts, and floods over the summer season. These climatic conditions have had a significant impact on fruit crops in the country.

According to Bazzana, there has been a significant decrease in the cherry harvest, predicted to be over 60%. Similarly, peaches and nectarines are projected to experience a decline of roughly 30%, while apricots are expected to decrease by 20%. Tomatoes are facing significant challenges, as they have been adversely affected by hail damage and sun scorching.

According to Bazzana, climate change is causing significant disruptions to agricultural practices in Italy, as it is doing globally. According to the speaker, efforts are being made to mitigate the consequences; nonetheless, the presence of tornadoes or large hailstones comparable in size to oranges significantly exacerbates the challenges faced.

In the Indian market, the prices of tomatoes experienced a significant increase of over 400% during the previous month, primarily attributed to the adverse effects of intense heat waves and substantial rainfall. In July, a number of McDonald’s establishments nationwide opted to temporarily remove tomatoes from their menu, with Burger King subsequently adopting a similar approach in August. This decision was attributed to concerns regarding the quality and availability of tomatoes.

According to Nicholas Paulson, a professor at the agricultural department of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, it appears that crops in the Southern and Western regions of the United States are seeing notable impacts.

According to the statement provided, the combination of high temperatures and extremely arid circumstances will have a detrimental effect on key agricultural commodities in the affected regions, namely wheat, cotton, corn, and soybeans.

Academic experts caution that the exacerbation of extreme weather events resulting from the anthropogenic climate crisis would likely lead to further detrimental impacts on food supply. According to Paulson, the alteration is significantly impacting the risk profile encountered by farmers.

According to Lesk from Dartmouth College, the global food system has demonstrated a certain degree of resilience thus far, even in the face of progressively hotter summers. According to the individual, the rate at which extreme weather events are intensifying surpasses the projections of climate models. Consequently, this implies that climate-related hazards are likely to be more substantial and occurring at a swifter pace than anticipated by the majority of individuals.

Lesk (year) expressed that we are currently facing imminent and significant risks that have the potential to profoundly impact the global food system. It is not readily apparent that these risks can be mitigated, and there is a real possibility that they may lead to the collapse of the global food system within the next 50 years, and potentially even within the next five to ten years given the current trajectory.

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