Can the olive harvest still go ahead under Italy’s coronavirus restrictions?

Can the olive harvest still go ahead under Italy's coronavirus restrictions?
File photo: AFP
Italy's new coronavirus restrictions came in just as many people were about to begin the olive harvest. If you're one of them, here's what you need to know.

The latest rules, which came into force on Friday, include a nationwide curfew and three-tiered system of rules aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

At this time of year, many in Italy are left wondering what this means for the olive harvest.

Q&A: Your key questions about Italy's coronavirus rules answered

Farmers and agricultural workers don't face any restrictions.  Just as during the first lockdown, they can continue to work as long as they follow the rules on self-certification (in red and orange areas), use of masks, social distancing, and sanitation.

But what about those who are not farmers, but harvest olives to make oil for their own use? What if you usually help family or friends with their harvest? Can you still go to the fields – and the mill?

In these cases the rules are not as clear-cut.

Red and orange zones

The main factors to consider are which region you're in, and how far you'd need to travel for the harvest.

If both you and the olive grove are in a yellow zone, you won't face any restrictions. However. you can't travel from a yellow zone to an orange or red zone.

MAP: Which zone is your region in under Italy's new tier system?

If you're in an orange zone, you must stay within your region other than for essential reasons, such as for work.

In red zones, you must stay within your own comune.

Does the olive harvest count as an essential reason for travel?

The government has not issued any official guidance on this at the time of writing.

However, agricultural news website Agricultura.it writes: “To justify moving from home to the olive grove for work reasons, you need a VAT number. But in the case of necessary and non-postponable agricultural practices, such as olive harvesting, even if it is for personal consumption, we believe that it could fall within the reasons justified by the self-declaration form.”

File photo: AFP

While it seems that travelling to your own land in another comune could be allowed, whether or not you're allowed to go and help family or friends with their olive harvest seems to be a grey area.

If their olive grove is close by, this is unlikely to be a problem – though of course the rules on social distancing, use of masks, and avoiding gatherings would apply.

As rules can vary by municipality, you are advised to check wih your local police or prefettura for clarification.

Can I visit the olive mill?

While it's easy enough to follow social distancing measures in an olive grove, what about taking your harvest to the frantoio, or mill, to be pressed?

“Since there is no specific legislation in the case of olive harvesting, we can interpret the government's rules concerning the possibility of shopping in areas different from the one in which we live: In practice, this is possible if you require goods or services not found in your own municipality,” Agricultura.it writes.

“Therefore,  it is possible to go to the mill closest to our home, for example in the neighbouring municipality.”
They stress that you should travel between the hours of 5am and 10pm due to the national curfew rules in place, if you are not a professional.
 
You will also need to fill out a self-certification form detailing your reasons for travel.
 
Agricultura.it also advises asking the municipal police what the rules are locally, “for greater peace of mind.”
 
Remember that Italy's local authorities (regional and municipal) have the power to adopt more restrictive rules of their own on top of those included in the emergency decree.
 
So what's alowed in a region in principle may turn out not to be possible in some towns.

As with all the restrictions in Italy, you should check the local rules in your region. Find out where and how to do that in a separate article here.


Member comments

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  1. Why not stop it? The government is working so hard to kill the economy, this would be right in line with their efforts. Besides, shouldn’t they make the olive growers suffer even more this year that they are already suffering from the blight? (dripping sarcasm, folks). These trees have survived centuries, but probably have never “witnessed” such incompetence as now.

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