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Olive oil production slips as pests damage crop

Olive oil production slips as pests damage crop
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Olive oil production has fallen in the key growing areas of Spain, Portugal and Italy.

A hotter than normal spring, a cool summer and lots of rain have provided the perfect conditions for the olive fly and olive moth to attack the crop and reduce yields.

Joaquim Freire de Andrade, the president of growers’ association Olivum, explained: “This year, the low temperatures and high levels of humidity have led to the development of many olive flies, which bite the olive, creating the entrance for the moths. So, all the growers are trying to collect the olives as fast as possible to minimise the problem of the fly.”

Italian producers have been hit hard with many growers failing to harvest the poor crops, those that have claim the quality is poor.

Producers fear a 35 percent drop in national production this year.

Pietro Sandali, the chairman of Unaprol, the Italian olive growers consortium, lamented: “This year without any doubt is a year, either to be remembered so as it doesn’t happen again, or to be forgotten. It is the worst year in memory.”

In Spain, the world’s biggest producer, the situation is being described as a “disaster,” it is the second poor harvest in two years.

Spanish production is due to drop by 50 percent and prices are being hit.

Mariano Villanueva, who owns the La Chinata olive oil shop in Madrid said: “The harvest has been lower this year than was first thought, at the same time exports are up. This has meant that the price of oil has seen a rise, in fact the cost of the oil has already gone up, it is very possible that it will go up a little bit more. But what we have tried to do here is reduce the profit margins that we have right now. We have tried to keep the quality the same at more or less the same price that we had before.”

Greek growers however have fared better and are set to double annual output, at least some good news for farmers in Crete after a torrid few years.