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A new threat could send the price of this popular cooking staple soaring: 'The industry is in crisis'

"There doesn't seem to be any respite on the horizon."

"There doesn’t seem to be any respite on the horizon."

Photo Credit: iStock

A heat wave crisis in Europe may soon spike the price of a key ingredient in your kitchen pantry. 

The extremely hot weather that has hit much of the southern part of the continent since April is taking a toll on olive trees. CNN reports that olive crops are feared to be low for a second consecutive year as trees drop their produce early to protect themselves against the heat and droughts. 

As a result, olive oil prices could skyrocket

What's the problem? 

Spain, a world leader in olive oil production, is also among the regions hit hardest by planetwide overheating. Temperatures reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit in April, according to CNN. The news agency lists Italy and Greece as olive growers also feeling the heat. 

Industry experts interviewed by CNN fear a crop decline of more than 30% compared to the five-year average when the olives are picked this fall. 

"There doesn't seem to be any respite on the horizon, the industry is in crisis," olive industry executive Walter Zanre of Filippo Berio told CNN. 

The shortage and increasing prices have also led to an increase in theft throughout the aforementioned regions, per Nature World News, ranging from stolen branches to warehouse break-ins.

How will this impact us? 

A Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis chart shows olive oil prices since the early 1990s.

In July, the price was marked at $8,599 per metric ton ($7,800 per ton), a sharp increase from last summer when prices were half that amount. The next highest price noted by the bank was in late 1996, at more than $6,240 per metric ton ($5,660 per ton). 

The International Olive Council, however, didn't declare a crisis in the CNN report. The council is also working on strategies to grow olives more easily in high heat and during droughts. 

An unnamed council spokesperson, however, said that worldwide olive oil production could drop by 20% from October 2022 to September 2023, blaming climate change.

India's tomato crop could be an indicator of how the scenario impacts olive oil pricing. High heat and torrential rains have contributed to price hikes of greater than 400%, per CNN. 

What's the alternative? 

Verywellfit has a list of olive oil alternatives, including grapeseed, canola, coconut, and even mashed bananas. However, some of those foods could also be impacted by planet overheating.

Zero Acre Farms has a unique oil made from sugarcane, broken down by fermentation, and the company says it does this "using 99% less water than olive oil and 87% less land than canola oil." It's similar to the concept used to make alcohol, yogurt, or sourdough and eliminates the need to press oils from produce. 

It could be part of the solution to worldwide crop woes, at least for oil connoisseurs. 

"It's getting to the stage where the concerns are significant, not just for olive oil, but for a lot of crops," Kyle Holland, who covers the market for research group Mintec, said to CNN. 

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