The price of olive oil is surging

Shortage scare.
Shortage scare.
Image: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov
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It might be a good idea to keep an extra bottle of olive oil stowed away for safekeeping. The prices of the ubiquitous kitchen item are starting to skyrocket because of shortages in Europe.

The shortage of olive oil and produce is the result of years of severe weather fluctuations, with heatwaves and floods across Spain, Italy, and Greece, including searing heat waves that decimated production by as much as half in some places.

Producer prices of olive oil in Spain—the world’s largest producer—have increased by 10% since the same time last year. Production is expected to fall as much as 50% this season, Bloomberg reported, and retail olive-oil prices in Spain are near a seven-year high.

In Italy, prices have gone up by 70%; in Greece, 17%; and in Tunisia, by 18%, according to a report by the International Olive Council. Exacerbating the shortage is world demand. Across the globe, the appetite for olive oil has risen, notably so in China, which saw imports increase by more than 160% in November 2016 from the prior year.

Shortages were felt most acutely in the UK, the result of the pound’s precipitous collapse in value against other currencies after the country voted to leave the European Union. Economic headwinds have pushed some restaurants there out of business, and the increase in prices of kitchen staples such as olive oil aren’t helping, according to Bloomberg.

So far, American consumers have been immune to the impact of the rising price of olive oil due to the strong dollar.

And if the heatwaves continue, wine could very well be next. Already climatologists have warned the wine industry stands to be upended if intense heat continues to plague areas such as Spain. Already the grapes in wine-growing regions of Spain have shorter maturation periods because of rising temperatures, changing how they taste.