Four-Year Project to Establish Foundation for Galician Olive Oil Sector

By 2021 Galicia expects to complete a four-year R&D project that seeks to establish solid foundations for a Galician olive oil industry based on indigenous olive varieties.

Galicia’s Biological Mission
Jun. 14, 2018
By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas
Galicia’s Biological Mission

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By 2021 Gali­cia expects to com­plete a four-year R&D project that seeks to estab­lish solid foun­da­tions for a Gali­cian olive oil indus­try based on indige­nous olive vari­eties.

Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and Recov­ery of Indige­nous Olive Vari­eties from Gali­cia” is the first major sci­en­tific project devoted to Gali­cian olives and began in 2017 with the aims of recov­er­ing indige­nous olive trees, iden­ti­fy­ing Gali­cian olive vari­eties, under­tak­ing a small-scale pro­duc­tion of their olive oils to ana­lyze their qual­i­ties, and expand­ing their pro­duc­tion to iden­tify those vari­eties with best busi­ness poten­tial.

The Viti­cul­ture Group of Galicia’s Bio­log­i­cal Mis­sion, a cen­ter of the Span­ish National Research Coun­cil, leads this research spon­sored by Juana de Vega Foun­da­tion and sup­ported by APAG, Galicia’s Asso­ci­a­tion of Olive and Oil Pro­duc­ers.

The Group is respon­si­ble for activ­i­ties in sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal aspects of viti­cul­ture and, since 2012, Gali­cian olivi­cul­ture.

Its ini­tial inves­ti­ga­tions con­firmed the exis­tence of two indige­nous olive vari­eties, Brava Gal­lega and Mansa Gal­lega, which in 2017 were rec­og­nized and incor­po­rated into Spain’s Reg­istry of Olive Vari­eties with a Com­mer­cial Inter­est and, con­se­quently, the EU Plant Vari­ety Cat­a­logues and Data­base. This enabled their plant­ing, olive and oil pro­duc­tion, and indi­ca­tion on prod­uct labels.


We described their DNA pro­files and fea­tures accord­ing to the exist­ing UPOV code for Olea euro­pea and have some data about their organolep­tic traits and the analy­sis of their oils but need long-term assess­ments of the olive trees and the influ­ence of annual weather to make rig­or­ous and reli­able con­clu­sions about the pecu­liar­i­ties of each olive vari­ety,” said María del Car­men Martínez, the group’s chief.

In 2018 the Mis­sion reported the find­ings of the project’s first phase when 116 cen­te­nary olive trees were iden­ti­fied and marked. Thir­teen dif­fer­ent and unknown olive vari­eties were found after ana­lyz­ing DNA and botan­i­cal descrip­tions of 70 of these trees.

Except for Brava and Mansa Gal­lega and Por­tuguese Cobran­coça, the remain­ing vari­eties need to be named. The plan now moves for­ward to stages that seek to expand and com­plete the recov­ery of indige­nous olive tree vari­eties, and the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of oils pro­duced from their olives.

Upon com­plet­ing the project, the Viti­cul­ture Group expects to pro­vide the Gali­cian and Span­ish gov­ern­ments with data required to reg­is­ter new olive vari­eties as indige­nous from Gali­cia and glob­ally dis­tinct. It then plans to offer pro­duc­ers and nurs­eries mate­r­ial that may help expand the olive oil and table olive indus­tries using indige­nous Gali­cian olive vari­eties.

The Group’s prior expe­ri­ence with the ini­tial stages of a Gali­cian wine indus­try based on local grape vari­eties, and the many sim­i­lar­i­ties between olives and vines, serve as a ref­er­ence for the devel­op­ment of what appears to be a promis­sory regional olive oil indus­try.

Although Gali­cia is known for its wine pro­duc­tion, cen­te­nary olive trees located through­out Ribeira Sacra, Valde­or­ras and the province of Pon­teve­dra attest an ancient olive oil pro­duc­tion. Many trees were removed cen­turies ago and com­mer­cial oil pro­duc­tion was aban­doned, but domes­tic pro­duc­tion never ceased. In recent years some com­pa­nies and winer­ies resumed this pro­duc­tion with a com­mer­cial tar­get.

Approx­i­mately 300 hectares of olive trees are cur­rently planted in Gali­cia, 130 of which, or 40 per­cent, belong to APAG mem­bers. The Asso­ci­a­tion is ready to pro­vide advice to the increas­ing num­ber of per­sons inter­ested in plant­ing olive trees, espe­cially from indige­nous vari­eties,” noted APAG’s pres­i­dent, José Anto­nio Gar­cía Martínez. Many com­pa­nies, espe­cially for­eign, are inter­ested in invest­ing in Galicia’s olive sec­tor, he noted.

Among the cur­rent oper­a­tors in Gali­cia, four employ indige­nous olive vari­eties grown in Gali­cia; five pro­duc­ers make oils from non-indige­nous olives grown in Gali­cia.

Accord­ing to Gar­cía, APAG pro­duc­ers are focus­ing on craft­ing pre­mium olive oils, pay­ing the utmost atten­tion to all stages involved in pro­duc­tion to ensure the gourmet sta­tus of their prod­uct.

APAG per­ceives the Bio­log­i­cal Mission’s research can have a pos­i­tive impact on the expan­sion of Galicia’s olive sec­tor and the recog­ni­tion of the unique­ness of its indige­nous olive oils. The Association’s aspi­ra­tion is that these efforts may help con­sti­tute a des­ig­na­tion of ori­gin that would cer­tify the qual­ity and ori­gin of the olive oils from Gali­cia.

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