Worst drought in 70 years threatens risotto, passata and olive oil supplies

·2-min read
Italy’s worst drought in 70 years has put the supplies of olive oil, risotto rice and passata under threat  (AFP via Getty Images)
Italy’s worst drought in 70 years has put the supplies of olive oil, risotto rice and passata under threat (AFP via Getty Images)

Italy’s worst drought in 70 years has put the supplies of olive oil, risotto rice and passata under threat as the country buckles under the burden of poor water infrastructure.

A price hike of up to 50 per cent is expected for rice and tomatoes after growers of the arborio rice- used in risotto- said there would be a “significant reduction” in crop yields.

The Italian government declared a state of emergency in several northern regions because of the drought and a fierce heatwave that has dried up the Po River- a key area for the production of fruits, vegetables and grain as well as irrigation.

Stefano Patuanelli, Italy’s agriculture minister, revealed that the country’s poor water infrastructure has exacerbated the consequences of the current drought, thus resulting in a “slow but unrelenting wasting away of water availability”.

Stefano Patuanelli, Italy’s agriculture minister, warned parliament that a third of Italy’s agricultural production was at risk (LaPresse)
Stefano Patuanelli, Italy’s agriculture minister, warned parliament that a third of Italy’s agricultural production was at risk (LaPresse)

Walter Zanre, the UK managing director of olive oil specialist Filippo Berio, told The Grocer trade journal: “Unless it rains very soon, the olive crop will be dramatically reduced.”

Apricots, peaches and pears would also have a smaller yield due to the drought, he added.

Jason Bull, the chief executive of Eurostar Commodities which imports rice and tomatoes from Italy, said he will most likely have to look for stocks outside of Italy.

A view of the almost dry-out riverbed of the Ticino river near Torre D'Isola under the fierce heat in Italy (AP)
A view of the almost dry-out riverbed of the Ticino river near Torre D'Isola under the fierce heat in Italy (AP)

“Farmers are saying there is no snow on the Alps when there is always snow there, rivers are drying up, the lake is drying up,” Mr Bull told The Guardian.

“Farmers are carrying on planting but they are worried [crops] are going to rot in the ground as there is no water to feed them.”

According to Italian farmers’ union Coldiretti, the emergency has already cost Italian farmers about three billion euros in losses, made worse by staggering energy prices stemming following the war in Ukraine.

While unusual heat and lack of rainfall are to blame for the current crisis, Italy has a notoriously wasteful water infrastructure that national statistics agency ISTAT estimates loses 42 per cent of drinking water from distribution networks each year, in large part due to old and poorly maintained pipes.

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