Food by VICE

Climate Change to Blame for 57 Percent Drop in Italy's Olive Harvest, Says Scientist

The environmental crisis is coming for your olive oil.

by Ruby Lott-Lavigna
05 March 2019, 2:40pm

Photo via Adobe Stock. 

Neapolitan pizza with an oily tomato base? Amore! Crispy rosemary focaccia? Amore! ‘Nduja paste swirled into linguini? Amore! Climate change reducing the olive harvest by 57 percent in Italy? Distinctly not amore.

Indeed, one of Italy’s most defining products—olive oil—is under threat from global warming, a leading climate scientist warns. According to the Guardian, the 2018 olive harvest was so bad that Italians may be forced to import their olive oil, sparking protests from Italian farmers earlier this month in Rome.

Professor Riccardo Valentini, a director of the Euro-Mediterranean Center who specialises in forest ecology, has blamed this year’s disastrous olive yield on climate change—a claim reinforced by a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Extreme weather, such as frosts in the spring of 2018, sporadic rainfall, and summer droughts has caused such damage to Italian olive trees that farmers are experiencing a 57 percent drop in olive harvest—the worst in the last 25 years.

As well as damaging plant growth, extreme heat or cold can weaken olive trees and make them more susceptible to disease. Last year, crops in the Italian region of Apulia were damaged by an outbreak of “Xylella fastidiosa,” as well as olive fly infestations. Which, as you can imagine, were not ideal for the nation-defining food product.

A mere reminder: climate change is coming for everything you love—including precious olive oil.