It seems that there's only one area in all of Europe that has olives this year: the small area of Italy just north of Bari (Puglia) that stretches from Terlizzi to Corato. Because of this fact, the price of olives has skyrocketed. Last year 100 kilos of olives were fetching 35 euro. This year, 100 kilos gets you 95 euro - and prices are still rising. Our olive mills are hardly making any oil, however, because they are reselling the olives to olive oil producers up north. There the olives will be milled and bottled and then sold as their "very own" Tuscan, Ligurian, and Umbrian extra virgin olive oil. And they will sell it at 4 times the price of what it really is, Puglia olive oil.
While the price of olives keeps going up, naturally so does the price of extra virgin olive oil at wholesale. This time last year, a liter of oil would cost you around 3 euro. In this year of the liquid-gold rush the price rises by about 90 cents per day. You're lucky if you get it at 7.50 euro per liter. Consumers, brace yourselves.
Last night at one of the local mills, growers young and old were lined up and all gussied up while they waited their turn to cash in. Everyone has a smile, or maybe a grin (often toothless), on their face. They walk into the tiny mill's office and walk out with wads of cash.
The other line-up is now at the car dealerships. Everyone wants a new 4x4 or a new SUV. But there's a hitch, literally. They all want a hitch mounted on the back so they can drag their old, rusty carts behind them when they bring more olives to the mill. Are you singing the theme to the Beverly Hillbillies yet?
But there's also a downside: crime. Thieves are harvesting olives in the middle of the night. Not their olives but YOUR olives. If most mature trees carry a ton of olives, that's a ton of cash. But some thieves work in broad daylight and are more brazen. This morning, a farmer's car was stolen along with his cart which was full of his harvest. He lost everything. An 18-wheeler filled with olives was highjacked at gunpoint in the city of Andria. The guards who patrol the fields are armed and ready. Trucks carrying olives and olive oil are escorted by the Carabinieri.
The prices and the smiles continue to rise.