For the second consecutive year olive oil production fell slightly in Croatia as the heatwave known as Lucifer dried out olive groves across the region. Meanwhile, consumption remained steady, but exports fell to a five year low.
Istria - the northern, mountainous region of Croatia - was partially spared from Lucifer by late summer storms. Though overall fertilization was not very successful, these storms watered the trees just enough to yield big and healthy olives, which were pressed into high quality oil.
Dalmatia - the southern, coastal region of Croatia - had the opposite effect. Successful fertilization mitigated the damage caused by Lucifer, but a lack of rain and record-high temperatures left the olives small and resulting oil quality relatively poor.
Producers say they are not overly concerned with climate change since olive trees have been growing in the region since Roman times and are fairly durable plants. However, this summer climatologists predict that Croatia will have heavy rainfalls. Combined with its large snowpack, the rain could lead to flooding and mudslides, both of which would potentially damage olive trees.
An unforeseen consequence of climate change that some producers have seen is areas becoming newly available for olive cultivation. As average annual temperatures in the region slowly increase, more areas that were previously too cold are now appropriate for olive cultivation. This has producers mulling over the possibility of expanding their groves and bolstering production.
Unlike other Mediterranean countries, Xylella fastidiosa has not yet appeared in Croatia. Late last year, Croatian producers adopted European Union standards for guarding against the disease. This includes testing trees frequently that are exhibiting symptoms and keeping a vigilant eye on olive groves.
Croatian producers are also now focussing on improving quality. Combined with potentially increased production, they hope to get back into the export market at a time when global demand for olive oil is increasing especially in emerging markets.
Many Croatian olive oils producers focus on making extra virgin olive oil, many of which are already lauded for their quality by the international community. At the 2017 New York International Olive Oil Competition, Croatian producers picked up 22 awards, including 13 golds and two best in class awards.
Total Olive Oil Production
Total Olive Oil Consumption