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Diseased Trees and Drought in Spain, Italy Drive Up Cost of Olive Oil Across Europe

By By Mark Leberfinger, Staff Writer
August 16, 2015, 7:35:36 AM EDT

An ongoing drought in southern Europe combined with a disease outbreak is affecting the continent’s olive crop and olive oil prices.

The price of a liter of olive oil jumped 10 percent from December to July in the United Kingdom because of a greater demand and a smaller supply, according to The Guardian.

The disease problem stems from Xylella fastidiosa, which presents a major risk to the European Union territory, according to a spokesman.

“No treatment is currently available to cure diseased plants in the field and, most often, plants that are contaminated remain infected throughout their life or collapse quickly,” said Flavio Fergnani of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).


Xylella fastidiosa was detected in olive trees in Lecce province in Apulia, Italy, in October 2013, Fergnani said.

Since then, the Italian government has declared a state of emergency in February to deal with the outbreak and ordered infected olive trees to be cut down as a way to eradicate the disease, which is carried by mosquitoes.

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Recommendations on how to deal with the disease are expected in late 2015 by the Food Safety Authority, Fergnani said.

“On risk reduction options, EFSA concluded that, as eradication is difficult once Xylella fastidiosa has established in an area the priority should be to prevent the movement of infected plants or infectious insect vectors into new areas, removing infected plants, controlling insect vectors, managing surrounding vegetation,” Fergnani said.

Drought has hampered growing efforts in Spain as a heat wave grew over the region this summer, while portions of Italy have also been abnormally dry.

“Since May 1, much of interior Spain as well as far north central Italy has had 50 percent or less of normal rainfall,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said.

“Far southern Italy and Greece have fared better with normal- to above-normal rainfall during this time. Tunisia has also had mostly normal to above-normal rainfall,” he said.

Greece and Tunisia are also large olive oil producers and their yield has not been impacted by disease and drought; however, the supply that these countries produce has not been enough to offset increases in cost, according to The Guardian.

Rainfall prospects look better across northern Spain and Italy over the next couple of weeks, Nicholls said.

“These areas have already seen an uptick in rainfall recently,” he said. “At least normal rainfall is expected across Spain and Italy during August and the start of autumn.”

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