Drought in Italy threatens olive oil, risotto rice supply

(Photo by Janos Chiala/Getty Images)

Supplies of olive oil, risotto rice and passata are under threat as northern Italy reels under the worst drought in 70 years, stated a report today (13).

As Italy declared a state of emergency in five northern regions and announced emergency funds over the worsening drought in the Po valley, growers in the Po region have warned of a “significant reduction” in crop yields this year.

Italy’s largest agricultural union, Coldiretti, has said the drought threatens more than 30 percent of the country’s agricultural production and half of the farms in the Po valley.

 Italian production of olive oil could be between 20 percent and 30 percent down on last year, stated The Guardian citing Kyle Holland, an analyst at market research group Mintec.

“We are already seeing some olive trees producing no fruit, which only happens when soil moisture levels are critically low,” Holland said. “According to industry contacts, the lower production and, therefore, limited supply of olive oil is likely to cause prices to increase in the coming months.”

Prices of Italian extra virgin olive oil were already up 28 percent two years ago, according to Mintec, as global supplies of cooking oils have been squeezed by the war in Ukraine.

Apart from olive oil, the cost of Italian rice and tomatoes have already more than doubled in the past two years, according to Mintec. Tomatoes are expected to be harvested in the next fortnight, earlier than usual because of the hot weather, and prices are expected to rise again for the latest crop. Rice prices are expected to be up at least 20 percent for the crop being harvested in October, stated the report.