Europe

Olive Harvest in France Threatened by Drought

A prolonged drought in the French department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is threatening the olive harvest which has just begun in the region.

Olive grove in Provence, France
Oct. 21, 2016
By Isabel Putinja
Olive grove in Provence, France

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A pro­longed drought in the French depart­ment of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is threat­en­ing the olive har­vest which has just begun in the region.

France’s south­east­ern region has been expe­ri­enc­ing a pro­longed drought, with soil humid­ity lev­els down by 70 per­cent. Pre­cip­i­ta­tion has been lower than aver­age for most of 2016, and water-sav­ing mea­sures have been imposed in some areas.
See more: Com­plete Cov­er­age of the 2016/2017 Olive Har­vest
Though olive trees can resist drought-like con­di­tions, a pro­longed lack of water affects the olive fruit because the tree sheds part of its crop so that it can sur­vive. Trees have also been affected by a cold spring sea­son that delayed the flow­er­ing and pol­li­na­tion stages,” Olivier Nasles, pres­i­dent of the French Inter­pro­fes­sional Olive Asso­ci­a­tion (Afi­dol) told La Provence. There will be fewer olives this year: We’ll prob­a­bly get 3500 to 4000 tons of olive oil, com­pared to the 5600 tons we had last year…”

Olive grow­ers in the neigh­bor­ing Vau­cluse depart­ment, where rain has also been sparse, are suf­fer­ing a sim­i­lar fate. Since Jan­u­ary, we’ve had only 300 mil­lime­ters of rain, which is less than half of the aver­age,” pointed out Eric Math­ieu, pres­i­dent of GOV, a group of olive grow­ers in Vau­cluse. Grow­ers here are not expect­ing a good har­vest, in con­trast to last year which pro­duced a record crop of 700 tons of oil.”

Math­ieu esti­mates that in Vau­cluse, this year’s yield will come to 300 tons at the most: Olives won’t even be picked in the old groves that are not irri­gated, while in oth­ers, the olives are very small, or there are none at all.”

Grow­ers who do have irri­ga­tion sys­tems in place, are expect­ing a nor­mal har­vest. But com­pared to last year’s bumper crop, olive grow­ers in the south of France are fac­ing a mediocre to aver­age har­vest at best.

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