Italy’s multi-billion-dollar olive-oil industry is threatened with destruction from “olive tree leprosy,” a deadly bacterial disease. So far, 40 percent of Puglia’s crop has been lost, and many farmers are selling off their olive presses, convinced the disease can’t be stopped.
Carried by sap-sucking insects, the virus was first detected in the area six years ago. Experts believe it came to the region on plants imported from Costa Rica. With more than 21 million trees infected in Puglia, it is now spreading north at a rate of over one mile a month; there is no known cure. Trees in Portugal, Spain, France, and Israel also have been infected.