Business

A Disappointing Olive Harvest in France

French olive growers are expecting the 2016 harvest to be disappointing as a severe drought hit the country during the critical summer months.

Nov. 23, 2016
By Reda Atoui

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French olive grow­ers are expect­ing the 2016 har­vest to be a dis­ap­point­ment as a severe drought has hit the coun­try during the summer months.

The World Meteorological Organization has expressed con­cerns in a recent report that 2016 will “very likely” be the hottest year on record as the aver­age tem­per­a­ture is 1.2℃ degrees above pre-indus­trial levels, and France has obvi­ously not been spared by the phe­nom­e­non. Scientists have stated that the impacts of cli­mate change would come sooner and harder and the French olive grow­ers have been at the receiv­ing end of a pretty rough year in terms of drought.

I can’t say right now how much olive oil I’ll be able to pro­duce this year but I’m expect­ing to pro­duce one-third of the usual.- Rodolphe Serratiozo

The olive har­vest has just started in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (often abbre­vi­ated as PACA), France’s most impor­tant olive pro­duc­tion ter­ri­tory. Rodolphe Serratiozo, an olive grower from Aix-en-Provence expressed con­cerns over what is begin­ning to look more and more like a poor har­vest.
See more: Complete Coverage of the 2016 Olive Harvest
“Look at this tree,” he said to a TF1 TV reporter while point­ing at one of his olive trees, “Usually we are able to har­vest around 15 kilo­grams of olives out of it. Now? I’d be happy if I can get 2 kilo­grams of olives out of it. I can’t say right now how much olive oil I’ll be able to pro­duce this year but I’m expect­ing to pro­duce one-third of the usual,” he added.

Rodolphe Serratiozo is not the only olive grower who have been hit hard by the recent drought. Laurent Rossi, olive pro­duc­tion super­vi­sor and owner of a mill in Mouriès (a city also located in the PACA region), is also deal­ing with the after­math of the drought. When asked by 20minutes.fr about how the cur­rent har­vest was going he sighed, paused, and answered: “Terrible.”

So what could French olive grow­ers have done in order to pre­vent the drought from affect­ing their har­vest that much? Installing irri­ga­tion sys­tems would have sounded like a log­i­cal answer but unfor­tu­nately for the grow­ers those sys­tems are still expen­sive. Most French olive grow­ers are already strug­gling to make ends meet.

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This year’s mediocre har­vest is ter­ri­ble news for olive grow­ers, who were just recov­er­ing from a ter­ri­ble 2014 har­vest when the olive fly had hit the French olive trees, caus­ing severe damage. 2014 was the worst year in terms of olive har­vest on French soil since the famously dis­as­trous 1956 har­vest season.

This year’s poor har­vest gen­er­ates tough finan­cial chal­lenges for French olive grow­ers as the reper­cus­sion is twofold; on one hand, they will very likely earn less money out of their har­vest and on the other hand they are being put in a tough spot regard­ing their loan reim­burs­ing capac­ity.

French con­sumers have also expressed con­cerns about the sit­u­a­tion.

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Simple eco­nom­ics sug­gests that olive oil prices are expected to rise given that the supply has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly from last year. As France’s unem­ploy­ment rate has risen to near-his­toric levels in the past few years here’s little doubt French con­sumers will be very aware of olive oil prices as the prod­uct is already com­par­a­tively expen­sive to other cook­ing oils.

Moreover, many French con­sumers have been won­der­ing if the qual­ity of olive oil would be affected as well. It is impor­tant to note that a decrease in quan­tity does not nec­es­sar­ily equate to a decrease in qual­ity, thus the cal­iber of French olive oils should not be a con­cern.

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France pro­duces on aver­age around 5,000 tons of olive oil annu­ally, account­ing for 0.2 per­cent of the world supply. Olive grow­ing, as well as olive oil pro­duc­tion in France, is con­cen­trated in thir­teen coun­ties, all located in the PACA region.