Drought and extreme heatwaves have halved Spanish olive oil production. The price at origin has increased by 112 per cent since last year.
Olive oil is one of the most consumed products in the world and an essential ingredient of the Mediterranean diet. But recent months have seen its price reach historic highs. Nowhere in the European Union has been hit harder than Spain, despite being the world's leading producer of the store cupboard essential.
Drought and extreme heatwaves have halved Spanish olive oil production. The price at origin has increased by 112 per cent since last year, but farmers like Jesús Anchuelo of the Small Farmers Union say they're losing money.
"We've had higher production costs, historical ones, like never before. This oil that is now being sold, whose price is rising every second week, was paid to us at a price that we could barely cover production costs."
One litre of oil in Spanish shops has risen by 52.5 per cent in a year, well above the European average of 38.3 per cent and of other producing countries such as Italy, Greece, and Portugal.
The rise in the cost of olive oil is also pushing up the price of other products, including canned goods. Now in Spain, the most expensive ingredient in a can of sardines is the olive oil it contains.
Spain exports 70 per cent of its olive oil production, meaning Spanish consumers are now having to compete for the commodity in an increasingly competitive global market.
"In Spain, we are used to olive oil prices being lower than the rest of the world," says Jaime Lillo, Deputy Director at the International Olive Council. "And so what has happened is that in Spain, where prices were lower, they have moved more in line with Italian prices, with prices paid in the United States, in France, in Greece."
This year's production is expected to be similar to last year's. A possible decrease in the price of olive oil will only come with an increase in production and a respite from the extreme weather Mediterranean countries have been increasingly subject to.