Extreme weather conditions, especially in southern Europe, affect the harvest of raw materials such as olive oil or fresh berries. It also affects the wallets of consumers.
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- Drought or heavy rain: Extreme weather has intensified in Spain, Italy and Greece.
- They also affect the harvest and ultimately the price of products such as olive oil or fresh berries, most of which Switzerland imports from these countries.
- According to experts, sparse harvest results contribute to higher prices in stores – at least for olive oil.
One man’s joy is another man’s sorrow – as trite as this phrase sounds, it is relevant here.
While summer lovers get their money’s worth in most parts of Spain, nature suffers. A summer of a pleasant 20 degrees on the Atlantic coast or a hot 33 degrees in Seville is expected to drop to the 40 degree mark by the end of the month, resulting in drought. According to the responsible Spanish authority, April 2023 will be entered into the statistics as the driest month since the weather record.
Even olive trees can no longer cope
Drought affects agriculture, even the most difficult crops indeed. For example, olive trees do well with little water. But they, too, threw away significantly less fruit German magazine “Spiegel” writes And because less is harvested, the price of olive oil eventually increases.
According to analysis company Minetec, the price of raw material olive oil has increased by almost 60 percent and costs an average of 5.40 euros per kilo. Producer prices in Spain, Italy and Greece have been flat since the start of the year, according to EU data. In Spain, for example, they are almost 84 percent above the five-year average. And when commodity prices rise, it usually doesn’t bode well for consumer prices.
These developments are particularly relevant for Switzerland because, according to import statistics from the Federal Office for Customs and Border Protection (BAZG), half of the olive oil imported in the last five years came from Italy, and almost 30 percent from Spain. And a good 10 percent from Greece.
In fact: According to a recent publication Consumer Price Index from the Compare Comparison Service Retail prices of olive oil have risen by almost 20 percent.
This also applies to fresh berries such as strawberries or raspberries, more than 80 percent of which are imported to Switzerland from drought-stricken Spain. Although the price is not as high as premium olive oil, it is still significant at 8.5 percent.
There are various reasons for the price hike
Increased energy and production costs, inflation, retailers’ hidden margins (at least some retailers are blamed by consumer advocates) or the weather – the reasons for increased prices are manifold.
When asked by Blue News, retailers say there is little disruption in inventory availability. For example, the media office of Aldi Switzerland writes that you can switch to other suppliers and offer the same prices accordingly.
On the other hand, for olive oil, this is mainly due to the weather last year, says Konrad Bollik to “Spiegel”. Bölicke heads Artefak, a cooperative olive oil project of olive growers in Spain, Greece, Italy and Croatia.
«There are always crazy weather conditions.»
The olive harvest is now poor across the Mediterranean, and not just locally, but fresh, he says as an example. While olive trees were frozen in some areas, flowers dried up on the Greek island of Crete. “There are always crazy weather conditions,” says Bolick.
It has long been known that climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves or heavy rains. Bölicke warns that the climate crisis threatens to become a food crisis.
Bolick says trees do well with a two-and-a-half-month dry spell in the summer, but anything beyond three becomes critical. The fruit may then shrivel or fall off. Polik is also worried about the increasing water scarcity. At the same time, rain has already fallen in southern Italy during the summer, which has washed away half of the olive groves. “What are you supposed to do there,” Bollick asks rhetorically: “As a producer, you’re completely helpless.”
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