According to Coldiretti, the agricultural organisation, this year’s olive harvest in Lunigiana could be worse than 2011, which saw production of olive oil cut by almost half compared to previous years. Rain could still help this year’s crop provided it is not accompanied by hail, but in many areas it is already too late as the fruit on thousands of olive trees has dried up and dropped off the trees, accounting for an estimated 20-30% of the olive harvest.
On the positive side, the high temperatures, low humidity and lack of rain helped keep the olive fly at bay as the larvae can’t survive in temperatures over 31° C. As a result, damage to the olive trees by this pest has been hugely reduced.
Local farmers, including major producers such Fratelli Marini di Terenzano of Fivizzano and Terre Malaspiniane of Fosdinovo, have confirmed that they are expecting much lower yields this season. However, one of the newer farms in the region, Lucchetti Ferrari near Pontremoli, has used technology to fight the problem. A computerised drip-watering system has ensured that their olive trees received sufficient water, without waste, during the worst of the drought and a good crop is expected. If the hot, dry summers persist, olive growers may well need to look to technology to ensure successful harvests in future years.
There are 870 hectares of olive groves in Massa Carrara, with 650 of those being in Lunigiana, mostly in the municipalities of Fosdinovo, Fivizzano, Podenzana, Mulazzo and Casola. Eight olive mills serve 1,500 olive growers. Coldiretti quotes olive oil production in Lunigiana in quintals, which I have failed hopelessly to translate into anything comprehensible. If you understand these things, the region usually produces 6,000 to 6,500 quintals of extra virgin olive from between 55,000 and 60,000 quintals of olives.