CORIGLIANO ROSSANO, CALABRIA, ITALY - 2018/11/07: A detail of the olives harvest in southern Italy for the production of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Photo by Alfonso Di Vincenzo/KONTROLAB /LightRocket via Getty Images)
CORIGLIANO ROSSANO, CALABRIA, ITALY - 2018/11/07: A detail of the olives harvest in southern Italy for the production of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Photo by Alfonso Di Vincenzo/KONTROLAB /LightRocket via Getty Images)
By Evan Bleier / March 7, 2019 10:30 am

Thanks to extreme weather and frost crippling production of one of the country’s signature culinary products, Italy could soon be forced to import olive oil.

In 2018, bad weather caused a 57 percent drop in production and cost the olive oil industry almost $1.13 billion.

Industry workers have already taken to the streets to protest the situation and call for aid, but there’s a chance the problem could get worse before it gets better.

According to Riccardo Valentini, the director of the Impacts Division at the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change, the extreme weather may damage the sector so badly that Italians will have to get their olive oil abroad.

“We are getting more and more into this complex climate situation of extremes,” Valentini told CNN. “In terms of production, probably we can expect this [decline] occurring more and more, if we’re not able to cope with this. Olive trees are very sensitive to certain climatic conditions – sometimes three days of freezing [temperatures] are more important than an average temperature over the year.”

The drop in production could also lead olive oil prices to rise in Italy and other markets.

“If this negative trend continues, there will be more [need] for importing oil from other countries,” Valentini said. “Hopefully this won’t happen – but if this big trend carries on it may be the case. It will actually be a big change in our lives. Italians have never used foreign olive oil … it’s very rare you find oil from other countries.”