Sicily: «In a few months the oil will cost the same as Dom Pèrignon»

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By John

«The effects of climate change are there for all to see. Today we record 24 degrees, all the basins are practically empty and there have been very few rainy days since the beginning of autumn. This excessive heat that has continued since the beginning of 2023 has led to the burning of flowering with a production drop of over 50 percent in Sicily. The most disturbing aspect is that if this continues, with this heat and drought we will have no production next year. Prices have already more than doubled, we risk having to buy oil like Dom Pèrignon in a few months.” Drought alarm, declining production and skyrocketing prices: the oil entrepreneur is the one photographing the dramatic situation affecting the extra virgin olive oil supply chain in Sicily Manfredi Barberaspeaking to journalists on the occasion of the 14th edition of “The island of Tesolio”, the conference promoted and organized by Cofiol (olive supply chain consortium) in Palermo. An emergency that affects not only the island but the whole of Italy and which now seems to also have effects on the habits of consumers, who are moving towards less valuable olive oils, a phenomenon that could become more centralized in the future.

«It is difficult at the moment to accurately estimate the losses in the sector – continued Barbera – but for almost a year now the price has more than doubled. We are thus losing consumption shares, because a consumer who was used to buying a liter of oil for 5-6 euros today finds it for 13-15 euros. Unfortunately, people are turning back towards seed oils.” The future of the sector promises to be full of unknowns, especially in the absence of solutions capable of counteracting the effects of climate change.

«Research, experimentation and innovation must be the three guidelines to face this emergency – highlighted Barbera again -. For our part, we have created the first modern olive grove system that works thanks to a large lake that acts as a water reserve. When emergency irrigation is needed we can provide it. Among other things, we did this with a specific call from the PSR, so politics is aware of a whole series of things and is often close to the productive world.”

A climatic situation, that of the Mediterranean basin, which «caused oil production to be extremely poor in 2023 – he said Francesco Tabano, president of Federolio –. Paradoxically we often hear it said that a good oil cannot cost below a certain amount, but in recent times we are witnessing years in which there is little product and often not even very good ones, when the product is quantitatively limited the risk percentages of attack by parasites are superior, but in fact since there is little oil the price skyrockets, when instead there is a huge production with superior quality products perhaps the price drops”.

For Tabano, the paradox is precisely this: having high prices on the market for poor quality products and low prices with high quality: «This situation can only be resolved by working across the supply chain starting from the resolution of the water problem, which is no longer a factor seasonal, but structural. We cannot have years of three million tons and years of two because this causes imbalances on the market. The Italian industry has been very good over the last forty years in bringing a high number of families closer to the consumption of oil, but with today’s prices many are moving away from extra virgin olive oil and towards less noble products.”