Italy might have to import olive oil due to extreme weather

Italy might have to import olive oil due to extreme weather
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Italy could be forced to import olive oil after extreme weather is threatening harvests.

The country has experienced a 57 percent drop in production of olive oil — a staple of Italian cuisine —  in 2018 after months of bad weather and frost, CNN reported Tuesday. 

The dip has caused the sector to lose almost 1 billion euros.

Italy was hit by a cold snap in February 2018 before the country was hit by a heat wave in the summer and strong winds and floods in October. 

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Riccardo Valentini, director of the Impacts Division at the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change, attributed the extreme weather to climate change, adding that it could force Italians to import foreign olive oil for their culinary needs.

"We are getting more and more into this complex climate situation of extremes," Valentini told CNN. "In terms of production, probably we can expect this [decline] occurring more and more, if we're not able to cope with this."

"Olive trees are very sensitive to certain climatic conditions -- sometimes three days of freezing [temperatures] are more important than an average temperature over the year," he added.

Spain is the world’s largest olive oil producer, CNN reported. Greece and Italy follow behind but Italy, however, rarely imports foreign oil. 

"It will actually be a big change in our lives,” Valentini said. "Italians have never used foreign olive oil ... it's very rare you find oil from other countries."

Coldiretti, the country's largest farmers association, has labeled the drop in olive oil production as an “emergency.”

The region worst affected was the southern region of Puglia, seeing a "real massacre of 25 million olive trees," the group said.

"To tackle the emergency, targeted intervention is needed to allow producers hit hard by the frosts to start again," Coldiretti President Ettore Prandini said in a statement.

Farmers in February began wearing orange vests, meant to symbolize the “yellow vest” protests France, to call for aid for their industry.