Is it time to celebrate the new olive oil harvest? Is this a good year for celebration? The season is now upon us and it is time to consider the predictions of a year with an overall decline in production of 40-50%.
First, looking back a couple of years is useful for comparison. 2014 was one for the record books. It was the worst harvest in 50 years, due to growing conditions, weather and pests (both the olive fly and a fungus). 2015 rebounded nicely with good olive oils and good availability.
In recent, recordable history, problem harvest seems to hit once every 15 years. To have two poor harvests in a three (3) year cycle is devastatingly difficult.
This brings us to the 2016 harvest. It is concerning and that’s being optimistic. Our own producers have generally said the quantities are less but the quality is good. One Sicilian producer has set a 25% price increase due to the difficulties in the harvest. Pictures sent to us from another part of Sicily showed sad trees that appeared to have already been picked. Unfortunately, they had not been touched.
There are similar stories to the north. In areas of Lazio and Tuscany producers have told us they have absolutely no oil for us this year.
However, in an effort to combat both adverse weather conditions and the olive fly, savvy mills and producers opened early. That enabled them to press high quality extra virgin olive oil.
What does this mean for the consumer?
Fortunately, we spend considerable time sourcing new olive oil and building new relationships with other producers throughout Italy so that we have enough supply of premium extra virgin olive oil to meet our customers’ demands.
Tips for Selecting Extra Virgin Olive Oil in 2017
- If you absolutely must have well sourced 2016 Italian olive oil, then stock up early with your favorites (and store them well).
- Continue to know the producers, especially the award winners (e.g. Flos Olei), as a sign of quality and authenticity.
- Early harvested olive oils are likely to be more peppery and spicy than ever. As noted above, more producers were picking earlier in order to save the harvest. Early harvested olives are spicier than those picked at a riper stage.
- And finally, be aware that with shortages, the prices for quality olive oils will likely increase.
Olive Oil Times has provided other reports indicating similar harvest concerns in Spain, France, and Greece.