Climate, crisis mean trouble for truffles in Italy
By Svetlana Kovalyova
SAN GIOVANNI D'ASSO, Italy (Reuters Life!) - Nose to the ground, truffle dog Nice ploughs through fallen leaves in a Tuscan forest on a crisp November morning.
But after hours of fruitless searching, Nice and her owner Massimo give up in yet another sign of trouble for the truffle industry in Italy, a major growing region in Europe.
Output of white truffles, the precious fungi with the delicate taste and strong aroma adored by gourmets, has fallen in Italy over the past few years. Climate change is a big culprit, bringing a damaging mix of drought and torrential rains.
"In the past, in a good season, white truffle crops used to come up to 10 tonnes. Now it has halved," Giancarlo Picchiarelli, chairman of Italy's association of truffle diggers called Citta del Tartufo, told Reuters.
White truffle season runs in Tuscany, one of Italy's four main growing regions, from mid-September to the end of December.
Output so far this year has fallen 20 percent to 30 percent from last year, said Luciano Tognazzi, secretary of a local association of truffle diggers, or tartufai, in the southern Tuscan province of Siena.
Tight supplies of white truffles has driven prices above 4,000 euros ($5,050) per one kg (2.205 lb). The white truffles grow only naturally in forests, unlike black truffles which can be cultivated on plantations.
A giant 1.5 kg white truffle unearthed in Italy was sold for $330,000 at an auction last December. Continued...