Oil prices – that is, oil for dipping, basting and sautéing – are skyrocketing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that olive oil prices hit a record high this month. Drought and extreme heat that hit producing regions of the Mediterranean this summer threaten to disrupt global supplies for the second year in a row.
Olive oil is a way of life for many people in the Mediterranean, where most of the world’s supply is produced and consumed. It has been used in cooking, skin care and traditional medicine for millennia.
Casey Corn is a food anthropologist. And yes, his last name is indeed Corn. She studied in Greece and wrote her thesis on olive oil.
“It’s something that’s taken for granted to a certain extent because it’s everywhere,” she said.
But in the United States, olive oil remains a niche product, said Daniel Sumner, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis.
“Olive oil is expensive compared to soy, palm oil and sunflower oil,” he said. “And that reduces its use.”
Yet about 40% of American households use olive oil. It is increasingly found in specialty processed foods, such as salad dressings and mayonnaise.
“There are people who want to consume it for health reasons,” Sumner said. “It’s also a gourmet food. People generally like it.
About 95% of olive oil sold in the United States is imported, according to the North American Olive Oil Association. But rising prices abroad could make domestic olive oil more competitive, said Joseph Profaci, the group’s executive director.
“Ninety-nine percent of U.S. production is in California, but we are seeing investment and harvests in Georgia and Texas, as well as Florida, Arizona and Oregon,” he said. he declares.
He said olives – known to thrive in hot, dry climates – are still considered a relatively sustainable crop. However, planting trees in new areas as the world warms will take some time to bear fruit.
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