Dios mio—the price of olive oil is getting out of control.
Because of a lack of supply due to climate change, olive oil now costs a record high of $9,000 per metric ton, The Washington Post reported on Friday. That’s up 12.5 percent this year, on top of an 8.8 percent increase last year, according to the Chicago-based market-research firm Circana.
In Spain, the top olive-oil-producing country in the world, output had dropped in May by 48 percent compared with the prior year. And while the new harvest usually begins around October, industry insiders are worried that this year’s growth won’t be a huge help: Drought and a lack of water over the past few months in Spain aren’t ideal conditions.
The same is true in other countries known for their olive oil: Italy, the second-best country in terms of olive-oil output, has experienced drought in the important Apulia region. And crops in Portugal, Tunisia, Morocco, and Greece have all seen the same damage. Some countries, like Turkey, have had good harvests, but there officials have banned bulk olive-oil exports to make sure that enough remains in the country.
Thanks to these trends, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has downgraded its olive-oil outlook. The agency last month estimated that just 2.5 million tons of olive oil would be produced globally this year. That’s a quarter lower than last year’s output and the five-year average, the Post noted. Plus, the USDA said that prices had risen 130 percent from last year, and that the effects of climate change don’t offer much hope for the future of olive oil.
The United States is a major importer of the ingredient, bringing in about 30 percent of the global supply, according to USDA data cited by The Washington Post. That number is only expected to rise, going up to 35 percent this year and even higher the following year. And while there are U.S. producers of olive oil, they don’t make nearly enough to meet demand.
“The U.S. is a steady net importer of olive oil—its domestic olive oil production, which comes in at around 16,000 tons a year on average, is not enough to fulfill consumption, which runs at some 390,000 tons,” Vito Martielli, a senior grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabobank, told the Post.
We’re an olive-oil-loving nation, but it’s not clear how much longer our high rate of usage can continue.