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Olive oil prices soar to new highs amid drop in global production: 'Supply is difficult and not sufficient to meet demand'

Constantly shifting weather patterns are causing instability in the agriculture industry.

Constantly shifting weather patterns are causing instability in the agriculture industry.

Photo Credit: iStock

While there are hopes for a rebound in some countries, the ongoing climate crisis has contributed to a strain on the global olive industry and the production of olive oil, causing many consumers to pay a hefty price.

What's happening?

As explained by the Guardian last month, the price of olive oil is expected to reach as high as £16 ($20.50) for just one liter of extra virgin in some areas because of "a drop in global production to the lowest level in more than a decade." 

The report stated that recent data from the International Olive Council revealed that "just under" 2.5 million tons (2.3 million metric tons) are expected to be produced globally in 2024, down from the roughly 2.75 million tons last year and well below the 3.75 million tons produced in 2022.

As the Guardian summarized it: "Production around the world is being affected by more extreme weather caused by the climate crisis. There are hopes that output this year could be helped by a return to more normal weather in Italy and Spain, where trees are just coming into bloom. However, production is expected to be up to 60% lower in Greece and down by more than half in Turkey, as trees in both countries recover from big harvests in 2023."

With demand outpacing supply, shoppers are being forced to empty their pockets for the popular cooking ingredient.

The price of a liter of mass-market-branded extra virgin olive oil already increased to £14 (about $17.90) earlier this year and is expected to go up to £16 (about $20.45) before the end of June, the Guardian stated. Premium brands like Odysea and Belazu have already soared to more than £18 (about $23).

"Supply is difficult and not sufficient to meet demand," said Walter Zanre, the UK boss of Filippo Berio, one of the world's biggest olive oil producers, in the Guardian report.

Why is this important?

Constantly shifting weather patterns are causing instability in the agriculture industry. This is leading to higher prices for consumers looking to purchase key products and making it harder for growers to maintain their livelihoods. Unfortunately, droughts and extreme heat aren't the only threats to olive harvests.

The Washington Post reported last year that record precipitation levels in California, another key olive oil producer, delayed the blooming of olive plants and made the quality of the year's crop uncertain.

The Guardian noted that, per the IOC, production prices for olive oil increased "more than 60% in Italy and Spain last month [meaning April] and more than 80% in Greece."

Rising prices led to an increased sense of desperation among consumers. In Spain, olive oil was named the most wanted item for shoplifters, per the Guardian, and some supermarkets in the United Kingdom have resorted to placing olive oil bottles in security boxes to thwart theft attempts.

What's being done about this?

Unfortunately, experts don't foresee the price of olive oil dropping anytime soon. Consumers have been forced to explore other alternatives to include in their meals. 

The Guardian noted that "high prices have prompted switches to other oils such as sunflower and rapeseed."

In addition, Zero Acre Farms is providing a sustainable alternative to traditional oils, with its oil created by feeding living microorganism cultures non-GMO sugar, which then are fermented into healthy fats. The cultures are then pressed to release their oils, all while using 99% less water than olive oil production, according to the company.

A return to more normal weather in Italy and Spain has fueled hope that production could improve this year, but trees have only recently begun coming into bloom.

Some oil producers, like Filippo Berio, have resorted to importing oil from other continents to support production. However, the ongoing situation has also caused an increase in wholesale prices.

"When we get to the other side of the summer, it could light the blue touch paper and [wholesalers] will be able to charge whatever they like for what is left," Zanre said, per the Guardian.

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