Employees pick tomatoes at the Sfera Agricola hydroponics farm in Gavorano, Italy, June 27, 2019. – AFP
Saturday 16 July 2022 8:44 AM Malaysian Time
ROME, July 16 – It’s so hot in northern Italy – so hot, even so – that the staple crops of all kinds of Italian recipes known and loved all over the world are at great risk. These include risotto rice, which is known to be grown in the region, as well as tomatoes and olives, the yield of which can be seriously diminished.
Italy has not seen this in 70 years. The north of the country is experiencing severe drought, with a state of emergency declared in five regions: Piedmont, Veneto, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Friuli Venezia Giulia. This situation is particularly dramatic due to the fact that these Italian regions have seen very little wet weather since last fall. Italians didn’t see much snow last winter, while spring was especially warm. As a result, more than 30 percent of national agricultural production is threatened by drought, according to Coldiretti, the country’s largest agricultural association.
First, there is rice. The famous starchy varieties – starting with Arborio, which makes creamy risotto – are grown in the provinces of Pavia, Vercelli and Novara. About 95 percent of Italian rice production comes from this agricultural region located between Lombardy and Piedmont. The Po Valley is the largest rice growing region in Europe. It provides a real and indispensable water reservoir for all farmers in the area. Rice cultivation has a long history there, having been practiced since the first half of the fifteenth century, and the draining channels of the marshes made the work easier. It is said that this network of channels was designed by Leonardo da Vinci. According to figures from the French Ministry of Economy, Italy is the main producer of rice in Europe. In 2018, about 1.6 million tons of rice were grown there.
Tomatoes and olives are also in danger
While northern Italy is associated with rice cultivation, this is not the only crop at risk of drought. Sicily may be known for its succulent citruses and sunny tomatoes, but Italy’s northern regions are also home to fruit and vegetable crops. And the crops could be cut in half compared to 2021. According to a British importer of tomatoes and rice, Eurostar Commodities Ltd, speaking to trade publication The Grocer, the food items they plan to ship will not only be more expensive, but also scarce.
And that’s not all. Italian olives – a necessary aperitif – may also be in short supply. Last year’s yield could drop by about 30 percent. However, if this may lead to fears of a decline in Italian olive oil production, it should be noted that this situation is nothing new. Production of this staple kitchen is now subject to very high annual volatility, with declines of 50 percent in 2014 and 60 percent in 2016, according to data from the French Ministry of Economy. And this is not only for production in northern Italy, but for national production, half of which is supplied from the Apulia region in the heel of Italy. However, dehydration is not the only culprit. Since 2013, olive fields have suffered from the effects of the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa, which causes trees to dry out. In France, olive growers in the Gard region suffer from the same problem. – ETX Studio