THE ongoing drought and poor harvests have led to a stark warning that Spain could run out of olive oil for the first time towards the end of September.

December’s olive harvest figure reached just 321,000 tons, a figure regarded as ‘meagre’ and the lowest for 40 years, prompting the grim prediction.

Juan Luis Avila, from the COAG farmers and ranchers union, said that current production ‘will leave us below the expected capacity’ of 765,300 tons, which represents 15% more than the previous campaign and 34% less than the average of the last four seasons.

Current estimates suggest that production levels will not exceed 700,000 tons, leading to further price hikes to the already high price of olive oil.

Cristobal Cano, spokesperson for the UPA union representing small farmers said that the drought and high temperatures during flowering have significantly reduced the fat yield of the olive.

“This year it is around 18-20% and lower than in previous seasons, where it was 22-23%,” he stated.

The situation is so dire that olive oil stocks hover around 627,000 tons, the lowest in four decades with Juan Luis Avila stating that ‘with such low production, and taking into account current consumption, there has not been a situation of lower availability in the last 40 years’.

Despite the skyrocketing prices, consumers remain loyal to virgin olive oil because it is a unique product.

Cristobal Cano stressed that ‘there is no vegetable fat that comes close in health or versatility’.

Producers are hoping that spring rains will produce a recovery in the countryside and reservoirs, and are demanding aid for olive growers affected by the poor harvest.

In the short term, they are calling for measures such as in the south of Spain by supply Andalucian olive groves with more water in the Guadalquivir basin in order to maintain a world lead in olive oil production.

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