Posted: 12/08/2019

Spread of tree-killing disease threatens to bump up Italian olive oil prices


A disease that is rampantly spreading among Italy’s olive trees is threatening to inflate the retail price of olive oil if not brought under control soon.

Pathogen xylella fastidiosa, which the European Commission considers the world’s most dangerous threat to groves, has been destroying olive trees in the southern region of Puglia for several years but there is evidence of its spread northwards.

Charles Carey, owner of London-based importer and wholesaler The Oil Merchant, warned that the disease’s destruction of olive trees and the burning of trees as a method of control would affect the price of Italian oil overall due to “the basic principle of supply and demand”.

He added: “It seems that government agricultural departments have been slow to react to the disease. But one would assume that as it spreads and more concern is given to the overall economic consequences of the disease, then more money will be pumped into research to try to combat it, worldwide.”

Carey said that he has so far been lucky that none of his suppliers have been affected. 

“As we buy from single estates, there will be little competition between, for example, one from Tuscany and one from Catalonia,” he added. “On the bulk market, though, prices throughout the EU will start to rise if the disease is not brought under control soon.”

This story appeared in the August issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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