‘Drought Of Biblical Proportions’ Strikes Spain’s Olive Oil Harvest
By Nigel Davies, Reuters – “‘An olive tree is like a camel, you don’t have to give it much water, but when it’s thirsty, it really has to drink,’ says olive oil producer Francisco Nuñez de Prado of the drought that could shrivel this year’s harvest to half of last year’s.
Nuñez de Prado’s estate in the country’s olive oil heart in Spain’s sun drenched Andalucia is expected to suffer a sharp fall in harvest this year. His has been saved to some extent thanks to extensive irrigation, but other producers have seen not a single olive growing on their branches.
That has caused prices to spike, with consumers expected to pay more for the ‘green gold’ in coming months as supermarkets jack up prices.
‘It’s been a drought of biblical proportions, the worst since 1945, the ‘year of hunger’ for Spain,’ said Nuñez de Prado, adding rainfall where his farm is located in the shadows of the Sierra Madre mountains was the lowest since that year.
A lean harvest will be another blow for Spain, the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, which replaced Greece, Ireland and Portugal earlier this year as the main threat to the survival of the euro currency project.
From 1943-1945 Spain suffered one of the worst droughts in its history. The drought after Spain exited a civil war in 1939 wrecked crops, dried the country’s then limited reservoirs, and forced restrictions on electricity consumption.
Official data from Spain’s meteorological institute shows this year has been the second driest in 60 years, after 1994. That has especially hit the arid south in Andalucia, which produces around 80 percent of the country’s olive oil.
This week it has begun to rain heavily in Andalucia, but analysts say that consistent rainfall rather than two days of heavy downpours would be needed for the harvest to be much higher than currently forecast.
New irrigation systems and reservoirs in the country have alleviated the effect of the drought for some producers, but a harvest expected to be around 800,000 metric tonnes (881,849 tons), half of a bumper crop last year, has seen prices rocket by 50 percent since July.” Read more.