Foodstuffs are running out of olive oil and my wine tastes weird. Don’t worry though: things will definitely get worse.

by | Mar 28, 2024 | Opinion

A press release from Foodstuffs wings its way into our inbox with some rather concerning news. The company that controls New World, PAK’n’SAVE, and Four Square are letting us know that olive oil is getting scarce and that means it’s going to get pricey. Extreme weather in Southern Europe has hit the olive crop in Spain for the second year running and demand now far exceeds supply. Fortunately we can all rest easy in the knowledge that there is no chance our beloved supermarkets would leverage this state of affairs to maximise their profits. That would never happen.

The press release goes on to give us all some suggestions of what we can use as an alternative once we are priced out of the olive oil market. Let them eat canola oil.

The olive oil situation in Europe raises some major questions about the authenicity and traceabilty of the foods on which we have come rely. This article from our co-founder Vicki Ravlich-Horan gives us a nice round up of the different types of olive oil on our supermarket shelves and talks about the huge price rises in imported olive oil over the past few years. But it’s this quote from Donald Montes from Taste of Greece that really stands out: “I guarantee you not a single imported olive oil in a New Zealand supermarket is 100% extra virgin olive oil.”  He can make this claim based on the price of extra virgin olive in our supermarkets and the cost of importing the product into the country. It’s an unnerving quote given the naivity that most of us bring to our grocery shop. We like to believe that the label is telling the truth. Well, it’s probably not.

As Vicki points out “the world of olive oil production in Europe is already rife with grim mafia practices and country of origin labelling often being fudged.” With the effects of climate already with us and likely to get worse, there is every reason to fear that good quality olive oil will soon be out of reach of most New Zealanders. Listen to Vicki and Tash talk olive oil here.

It’s not just olive oil that we have to worry about. An article from The Conversation (republished here) explores how changes in climate can effect the microbes that help turn grape juice into wine. These microbes are responsible for many of the distinct flavours that make a wine unique. As our climate continues to change there are no guarantees that our Marlborough Savignon Blanc will be providing us with the same aromas of cut grass and cat piss that we have come to rely on.

Problems with olive oil and wine production do not a global food crisis make. But these are just two examples among many that are going to arise as the climate continues to heat. What happens if similar problems hit the world’s wheat or rice crops?

We are entering uncharted waters, in fact, we are already in that bit of the map with all the sea monsters.

The good news is that we live in New Zealand and there are few countries in the world better placed to become a self sufficient food producer. The bad news is vast swathes of our arable land is being used to produce milk powder for the export market. And that same land is being gradually degraded and taking the nation’s water quality along for the ride.

It will take a great deal of forward thinking and huge political will to redress this situation. We will need to realign our agriculture sector to feed the nation rather that create profit. It’s hard to see that happening. But happen it must.

The climate crisis is already here and we either get ahead of it now or we play catch-up a few yeas down the line when it might already be too late.


About the Author

David Wrigley

David is a writer and musician from Kemureti/ Cambridge. He has been published in Noble Rot, Nourish Magazine, Turbine|Kapohau, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, and is currently working on his first novel. He has done his time in restaurants in Aotearoa and the UK. Oh, yes. He has done his time.

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