While some are still concerned, justifiably, about the level of fraud in the olive oil industry, and worry whether their Italian olive oil is really from Italy, there is now an even more troubling problem: the rapid spread of Xylella fastidiosa:
Across the stony heel of Italy, a peninsula ringed by the blue-green waters of the Mediterranean, olive trees have existed for centuries, shaping the landscape and producing some of the nation’s finest olive oils. Except now, many of the trees are dying.
Sprinkled among the healthy trees are clusters of sick ones, denuded of leaves and standing like skeletons, their desiccated branches bereft of olives. The trees are succumbing to a bacterial outbreak that is sweeping across one of Italy’s most famous olive regions, as families who have manufactured olive oil for generations now fear ruin, even as officials in the rest of Europe fear a broader outbreak.
“It is devastating,” said Enzo Manni, the director of ACLI-Racale, an olive cooperative in the heart of the outbreak area. “It is apocalyptic. I compare it to an earthquake.”