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.)