According to SAPO news, following an intense period of rain in December and January, drought and the impacts on agricultural production are once again in the spotlight. In Portugal, although it is premature to predict how the olive growing campaign will take place, the prospects are worrying, say some representatives of the sector.

"The drought situation has been going on since January. March and April were months with little rainfall. The situation is complicated and the reality is that, in May, it should not rain nor should we recover what did not rain," warns Luís Mira, secretary-general of the Confederation of Farmers of Portugal (CAP), in statements to ECO.

According to the forecasts of the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA), in the next ten days the maximum temperatures in mainland Portugal will approach 30 degrees Celsius, with clear skies. This at a time when 48% of the territory is, again, in a situation of weak, moderate or severe drought, with a higher incidence in the Alentejo.

In Spain, warnings are tightening due to the lack of rain in the neighbouring country, olive oil prices have risen by almost 60 percent since June 2022, to about 5.4 euros per kilogram, as a result of a severe drought in Europe that last year compromised dryland olive crops across the continent, the Financial Times writes. The country, which is the largest olive oil producer, accounting for half of the world's olive oil production, has seen annual supply drop by about half in the past 12 months to 780,000 tons, catapulting prices to new highs.

Luís Seabra, president of the Association of Farmers of Ribatejo (AAR), explains that in Spain, olive grove crops are mostly rainfed — that is, on land that does not have any irrigation system or water use, including rainwater. Therefore, "when these areas drop [production levels], obviously it moves strongly with the rest of the market," he points out.

Asked if these shock waves will reach Portugal, the official considers it to be "early to determine", since it will only be possible to assess the trends of olive grove production from May. "That's when the expressions of this year are drawn. All the moves, at this point, are speculative," he said.

Casa do Azeite shares the same concerns, recalling that Portugal has already "accumulated two years of drought" which causes "some uncertainty regarding what may happen to production."

"Last year's campaign was very affected by the weather conditions, but mainly by the counter-harvest [production breakdown]. There had been an over-production of olive oil in the previous campaign, usually resulting in a break in the following campaign, aggravated by the drought," says Mariana Matos, secretary general of the House of Olive Oil.

For the responsible, although it is very early, and now beginning flowering, the "situation is worrying", considering that the signs coming from the neighbouring country are not encouraging. "The concern in Spain is enormous, because it greatly conditions world production and the price model." According to Mariana Matos, in 2022, "the price of olive oil at origin rose more than 50%" in Portugal compared to the previous year, a reality also influenced by the increase in production costs.

The secretary general of CAP has, however, fewer doubts. According to Luís Mira, what is happening in Spain is a reality that will most likely be replicated in Portugal, similar to what happened last year, since the situation of drought and water scarcity affects the Mediterranean countries equally. In December 2022, national olive oil production that year recorded a drop of up to 40%, compared to the previous campaign.