Inflation is finally easing. Americans are paying less for gas than they were a year ago. Furniture, television, and airfare prices have all fallen since last summer. Even the used car market is cooling off after its meteoric rise. But one unsuspecting staple in many American kitchens has become a prominent outlier: olive oil. The price of the already pricey liquid fat has soared to a record high this summer.
It’s the latest chapter in the annals of heatflation — when scorching temperatures harm crops and push food prices up. A yearlong drought and a spring of extreme heat in Spain, the world’s largest olive oil producer, devastated the country’s olive groves. Spanish olive oil production fell by a half — from an estimated 1.3 million to 610,000 metric tons — over the past year. Now fears are mounting over the very real possibility that the country’s inventory will run out before the next harvest begins, in October.
“For Spaniards, this is a real crisis,” Bloomberg columnist Javier Bias recently wrote. “We generously coat our food in olive oil.”