A SHOCKING report from Holland’s University of Wageningen suggests that over the next 50 years, Spain’s olive trees could be decimated by Xylella fastidiosa a bacterial pest which could cost the country just under €17 billion if left unchecked.
The effects of the bacteria means that the trees develop burned leaves, dry branches and the eventual death of the tree and since 2016, trees on more than 130,000 hectares in Spain have been affected.
At this stage, there is no known cure for the disease and until such time as one is discovered, trees across Spain, France, Greece and Italy will be affected but with Spain being the largest European producer, it will be the worst hit.
This is particularly worrying as olive oil plays such an important part in the economy of Spain with some 300 million trees spread across 2.1 million hectares.
Although there is some production in Catalonia, the largest production comes from Andalucia with Jaen having the largest volume of oil and it should also be remembered that the fruit itself is also enjoyed throughout the world.
Prices for olive oil are expected to increase significantly despite the problems of export to the USA and if Spain is to combat this potentially devastating invasion then it has to be part of an EU wide pest protection programme.
The potential cost of replanting depleted areas with new trees is high and there will be a long wait for them to become fruitful with no guarantee that they won’t become diseased again.