Olive oil has been produced in Italy for at least 4,000 years, far longer than other Italian specialties like pasta, pizza and Spumoni. But last year, olive groves across the peninsula took major hits from the weather and disease, and now Italy may have to do the unimaginable—import olive oil from other countries. Even more startling, it’s a situation that could become the norm due to the impacts of climate change.
The past weekend was characterized by a cold front from the Balkans that brought snow to central and southern Italy and wind to the north of the peninsula. The cold front caused a sudden drop in temperatures especially in Puglia, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria and Sicily already on Friday evening (February 22nd 2019).
"The table grape campaign was characterized by generally low prices, unusual weather conditions and substandard product quality," explains Vittorio Fili, president of Associazione Regionale Pugliese dei Tecnici e Ricercatori in Agricoltura (ARPTRA). "The weather affected the cost of harvesting operations, so sales prices remained unvaried. Many producers had to deal with rot and therefore clean and sort bunches to bring high-quality produce to the tables."
The cold in the growing areas of Italy is currently affecting availability, as well as prices. The consequences have also been felt by organic producers for several weeks, confirms Emanuela Martella, spokeswoman for Ögema GmbH. The Bavarian trading company sources its organic goods directly from Italian producers, which are mainly marketed in Germany. "After a good sales in December, from the beginning of January, large quantities are lacking with regard to outdoor vegetables," she says.
The main Sicilian artichoke producers are facing a very unpleasant situation. Enzo Rametta told about the current campaign trend, which is indicative of a bad season for the second year in a row. Rametta explained, “For the second year in a row, the artichoke campaign is just a disaster. Last year, the season was characterised by summer drought, which affected the whole season. In December, the situation got worse as the cold temperatures blocked the plants’ growth”.
Weather is like a jester, in Italy. The North is fighting against drought, while the Centre and the South are experiencing strong and persistent rains and snowfalls. In the coming days, temperatures are expected to rise, with snow present only at high altitudes and strong winds, especially in the islands.
The weather conditions in the formerly "safe" growing areas of Italy and Spain are becoming increasingly extreme. Italy is struggling with considerable snowfall, parts of Spain have to deal with frost. Even if it only turns out to be a short period of frost or snow, the consequences are already noticeable within wholesale. Regarding the current harvest, there are quality and yield losses, especially for the vulnerable leafy lettuces. Growers and retailers are worrying about the remainder of the harvest.
Low pressure coming from Northern Europe did not affect southern Italian produce much. FreshPlaza contacted Gianfranco Romano, regional president of Coldiretti Matera, in order to better understand the current situation. “The lower temperatures were not a big issue. Even though the temperatures reached -1.5°C, citrus fruits did not experience any problems as a temperature change is necessary for the good preservation of the fruits’ organoleptic qualities”.
The 2018 Italian green kiwi production quantification by CSO Italy has now ended.The production did not meet expectations, especially because of exceptionally adverse climate conditions which negatively affected the pre-harvesting fall phase. The total green kiwi marketable production – destined to the fresh produce market – was 333.000 tons, similar to what happened in 2017 and less than 30% of the 2013-16 average.
Milan is one of the biggest cities in Italy. Therefore, its fruit and vegetable wholesale market is a landmark on a national level – regardless of the structural and managerial issues. The wholesaler Salvatore Musso said, “Some produce is going great, others less great but still well: artichokes have high prices, as there is not much production.
In the southern areas of Central Italy, heavy, persistent rain and floods have caused a critical situation to develop in the countryside. According to the producer, entire ready-to-eat salad, carrot and turnip fields have been completely destroyed. Here, we show some photos taken at the beginning of the 48th week that illustrate the conditions in fields and greenhouses.
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