Spain’s Olive Groves Face Dire Catastrophe:
Intense Heat and Drought Threaten Olive Oil Supply and Essential Food Prices
Spain’s olive groves have experienced extreme heat for the second year in a row, causing a significant increase in the prices of olive oil and essential food items. The ongoing drought and unusually high temperatures have raised concerns about a potential catastrophe for Spain, the world’s leading olive oil producer.
In describing the situation in the Jaen province, olive farmer Juan Luis Avila portrays it as a “catastrophic” scene. Recent bouts of extreme heat, with temperatures soaring to almost 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), have scorched the white blossoms of countless olive trees.
“This year, the danger goes beyond just the immediate harvest; it threatens the long-term survival of the olive orchards,” he told DW, expressing worry that “a significant portion of the harvest could be lost” even before the harvest season begins in November. He adds, “We’ve never faced a situation this dire.”
Avila, also a representative for the olive growers’ sector within the Spanish farmers’ association COAG, explains that while olive trees “can endure very high temperatures if they receive enough water,” insufficient water supply reduces their resilience, preventing the trees from producing healthy fruits.
In the 2022–23 harvest season, Spain’s olive oil production dropped by 680,000 metric tonnes compared to the previous year, which yielded nearly 1.5 million metric tonnes in the 2021/2022 season. The upcoming season, set to conclude in January 2024, is expected to bring even worse predictions and more significant losses.
Spain isn’t the only country affected by what some are calling the worst drought of the century, projected to result in multibillion-dollar damages. Portugal and Italy are also grappling with similar challenges in their olive cultivation. As a result, consumers across Europe are likely to feel the impact of this water crisis, leading to higher prices.
If you want to read the entire article, go to:
- Butler, S., 2023, Olive oil industry in crisis as Europe’s heatwave threatens another harvest, the Guardian.
- Schulze, R., 2023, Spanish olive growers feel pain from early drought, com.