Spain's Drought Is Causing Olive Oil Prices to Skyrocket


Nov. 9 2023, Published 12:06 p.m. ET

olive oil bottles on shelves
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • Spain produces nearly half of the world's olive oil.
  • Severe droughts in Spain and other olive-growing regions of Europe are impacting olive and olive oil supply.
  • A second consecutive year of drought has decimated olive farmers' ability to grow the popular crop.
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Although you may think of Greece or Italy as being among the top olive oil producing nations, it's actually Spain that is the largest producer of the kitchen staple. As the North American Olive Oil Association explains, Spain produces roughly 45 percent of the global supply of olive oil each year.

Unfortunately, heat waves and drought have plagued Spain and other olive-growing Mediterranean regions. For the second year in a row, olive farmers are facing drastically reduced crop yields. Here's how the olive oil shortage has come about due to Spain's drought and other climate-related issues.

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olive trees in a dry climate
Source: Getty Images

Olive trees have suffered due to drought across Spain and Europe.

A drought in Spain is raising olive oil prices and could lead to a shortage.

For those who use olive oil on a daily basis, obtaining those bottles is expected to become more and more difficult. Spain, which leads the world in olive oil production, has suffered the effects of drought and heat waves for the second year in a row, as of the fall of 2023, per The Guardian. In September, the outlet reported that Europe's local olive oil supplies were extremely low.

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According to The Guardian, in 2023 Spain was projected to produce 750,000 tonnes of olive oil, compared to past typical annual yields of 1.3 million tonnes. In 2022, the yield was only 660,00 tonnes.

Rafa Guzmán, a Spanish olive farmer, explained to The Guardian that farmers were barely making ends meet financially, and that at age 50, he had never seen two bad olive harvests in a row.

Of course, a major drop in olive oil supply means a rise in prices. According to the International Olive Oil Council, as of September 2023, in Jaén, Spain, extra virgin olive oil was up 104.1 percent compared to the previous year. As of November 2023, the AP reported that olive oil prices were up 75 percent since January 2021.

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damaged olives on the ground
Source: Getty Images

Olive groves suffered hail damage in Italy as well.

Spain's drought has far-reaching effects on crops.

According to a spokesperson for the Spanish national weather service, as of May 2023, Spain has been in "long-term drought since the end of 2022," CNN reported. Drought is impacting about 60 percent of the Spanish countryside, which is expected to cause significant losses for farmers of all kinds. Other impacts include reduced honey production by bees and a reduced supply of water — both for farming and for drinking water.

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Other crops devastated by climate change in Spain include watermelon, melon, and citrus fruits, per Scientific American. Italy has also been impacted not only by heat waves but also hail storms and floods, which have damaged various crops like wine grapes and cherries.

Clearly, climate change is affecting aspects of everyday life across the globe. Heat waves in Europe have only made drought conditions worse in places like Spain. “The Mediterranean basin is a hotspot of climate change,” Ramona Magno of the Italian National Research Council, told Scientific American.

Joan Girona Gomis, a scientist at the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology, told CNN that Catalonia, Spain will need to adapt with measures like drought-resistant crops in order to remain a major farming area.

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