If you use cooking oils, it’s time to stock up


The drought that’s plaguing many US farmers and states is also hitting Europe’s agricultural sector very hard.  Among other crops, olives and sunflowers are being hammered.  The BBC reports:

The fertile plains full of olive trees that stretch across southern Spain have made this country the world’s biggest producer of olive oil, accounting for around half of the global supply.

But devastated by its worst drought ever recorded, Spain’s so-called “green gold” is becoming rarer. This year’s yield is down by around a third already – and there’s still no sign of rain.

. . .

Spanish farmers have been planting more sunflowers since the start of the year, in an attempt to offset the loss of sunflower oil from Ukraine – the world’s largest producer, where the war has led to a drastic drop in production.

But a flower that worships the sun also needs the blessing of rain – and there is none, leading to a mass of shrivelled crops producing neither seeds nor oil.

. . .

A recent report by the Global Drought Observatory concluded that Europe is suffering its worst drought in 500 years.

There’s more at the link.

Almost every nation and culture on Earth relies on oils and fats to cook food, or add to food in the form of salad dressings, etc.  Well, half of the world’s supply of olive oil is now under critical threat in Spain, and it’s not the only producer facing drought.  Sunflower oil is being hammered as well, initially because of the war in Ukraine (that country and Russia being the world’s largest producers of sunflower oil) and latterly because sunflower crops in other parts of the world are also being threatened by drought and other factors.

Other oils can be used instead, but they’re not as healthy as olive oil, and they also face supply constraints.  In addition, there are environmental impacts, such as the destruction of rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations.  Basically, the loss of major sources of olive and sunflower oil means that such constraints and impacts are only going to increase, and get worse.  More “exotic” oils, such as those derived from coconuts or avocados, are likely to see increased demand – but their supply is already limited, and their (already relatively high) price will rise accordingly.

I strongly suggest that if you use oils for cooking and food preparation, you should lay in a stock of your favorite brands/types at once, before the price skyrockets and/or their selection and availability becomes much more restricted.  In this country, with its relative wealth, I’m sure we’ll continue to have such oils available;  but I won’t be surprised to see their price double or triple within the next year.  Given that other prices will also continue to rise, it may come to the point where they’re almost unaffordable for the average consumer.  The same might well happen to shortening (e.g. Crisco), lard and tallow, all made from animal fats – animals that are being slaughtered in mass quantities right now because the drought has restricted the amount of grazing available.  If herds are drastically reduced, when the drought breaks it’ll take years before their numbers can be built up again;  and during that time, animal byproducts are going to remain in short supply.

(Edible oils and fats have a limited shelf life, so if you want to store them for the longer term, I suggest freezing them.  For example, I’ve kept olive oil in a freezer for up to two years, and noticed no ill effects when I defrosted and used it.  Just make sure their container allows for changes in volume as they freeze.)



  1. Yeah, but it's longer than thought. We used a gallon of olive oil for about 5 years and it was in storage for 4 and it was fine. Stored on shelf in bedroom, not super cool. But we did stock up again about 4 months ago with oils of all kinds and more bacon.

  2. Oil will go rancid over time, but it's tied to oxygen exposure. If nitrogen purged, oils last longer. Also, simply refrigerating the oil will push that 18 month date out to 5 years.

  3. Reminder to all – 90% of the "extra virgin" olive oil sold in the USA – isn't. Half of it isn't even olive oil.

  4. The thing I wonder is, how can *I* tell if the olive oil is olive oil? My taste buds are NOT that sensitive to such things (ages of abuse, or plain ignorance, or….).

    But oils are like beer: cool and dark is a good place for storage.

  5. McChuck is correct. Most 'olive oil' is soy oil, with a bit of cheap olive oil added for flavor and color (the cheap stuff works better for that). An acquaintance that was allergic to soy gave up on using olive oil, as only a few boutique brands didn't set her up for a nasty reaction.

    Freezing butter also works great, I prefer to do that as it's easier to fit in my freezer.

  6. Save your bacon grease. Pour it in a jar while it's still warm and store it in the fridge. I've been doing this for a while. My city-girl wife thought it was weird and gross at first, but she has finally admitted that things taste a while lot better when I use that instead of cooking oil.

    – Texas Mike

  7. Learn to make ghee. Very simple and keeps without refrigeration. And the bacon grease mentioned above is great too.

  8. After opening the container of oil, use a commercially available nitrogen/argon mix to prevent oxygen from contacting the surface of the oil. Primarily used to keep wine fresh if a bottle will be consumed over a period of several days.

  9. Rapeseed oil will not go rancid or at least will survive considerably longer than other vegetable oils. It's easy to come by in Europe but I don't know about the US.
    But even here the cheapest oil has AT LEAST doubled in price and the shelfs are getting empty.

  10. Locally (Michigan) far more soy beans were planted than the norm due to the wet May. Soy beans are less sensitive to soil-moisture and late planting than corn. Soy beans also require far less nitrogen fertilizer, which was at all-time high prices.

  11. Mixed feelings, here.
    My canola/rapeseed crops are looking pretty good and soil moisture is high enough here (south-eastern Aus) to almost guarantee some level of harvest, with more rain forecast. We aren’t the largest exporters of Canola products in the world, but we do what we can.

    That said, I’m not a fan of seed-oils. Give me animal fats any day, they have been unfairly demonised since the 70s. There are some good things about living on a farm and living on an island…. at least, until powerful and unscrupulous nations decide that we have what they want. We currently have the least responible and competent government in maybe a century. Interesting times.

  12. Unopened peanut oil has a shelf life of a year to 18 months. Double that if refrigerated. Crisco has a shelf life of 2 years unopened. Again, double that if refrigerated and up to 5 years frozen with no exposure to air.

    I use Canola in my deep fryer and olive oil with most cooking chores. I buy in bulk at Costco and I have never had any go rancid. I have two small mason jars that I capture bacon grease. It has 3 wicks in it and is used in the bathroom to get rid of unpleasant odors. The second on e is being filled to replace the candle.

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