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“Another very difficult year”: these are the words of Filippo Legnaioli, president of the cooperative agricultural company Frantoio del Grevepesa, located in Gabbiano.

Since 1974, it has been one of the most well-known and appreciated companies in the field of oil production both in Italy and abroad.

“It’s the fourth consecutive year that we’ve been struggling”, says Legnaioli. The olive harvest has started and olive oil producers have no great expectations. The experts say that the core of the problem is that “there are not many olives to work with”.

The cause of the shortage of olives is associated, in his opinion, with “last summer’s excessive heat and drought”, which have damaged the olives while they were transitioning from flowers to fruits.

“On the positive side, however, says Legnaioli, “the olives have ripened more quickly thanks to the warm weather, and the presence of the damaging olive fly has been greatly reduced”.

However, there are other factors that have contributed to the scarcity of the harvest in recent years; climate change is not the only one.

“We should consider – continues Legnaioli – the state of abandon of many olive groves in Tuscany , which nowadays no longer receive the necessary care. And this is because of a lack of workers”.

“Older people are the ones still working the fields” he points out, “while young people have other interests and look for different jobs which are more satisfactory and better paid. And who could blame them… “.

So this year won’t be the best one for the Frantoio del Grevepesa, nor for other companies in and outside of Tuscany.

According to Confragricoltura Toscana, this is a real “black year” for the region’s oil production sector, with an average production drop of 60% compared to previous years.

At Frantoio, however, the quality of the olives brought by the members for processing is good, although there is a noticeable lack of homogeneity in their ripening (some olives are a deep green, others are black).

However lower quantities are balanced by high yield: 14 kg of oil extracted from 100 kg of olives.

And since the “olive crisis” is badly affecting the producers, the price of olive oil is bound to increase compared to last year: “Prices certainly won’t be going down”, comments Legnaioli.

The president of the Frantoio del Grevepesa concludes by advising farmers “not to wait too long to start the olive harvest” because their premature ripening will also cause premature falling from the branches.

Cosimo Ballini