`Drought Just a Bump in the Road for California Olive Oil

N. America

Drought Just a Bump in the Road for California Olive Oil

Aug. 21, 2014
By Danielle Putier

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Imports cur­rently account for more than 95 per­cent of U.S. olive oil con­sump­tion, but as con­sumers become more edu­cated about domes­tic options, Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers are gear­ing up to take the baton.

The U.S. olive oil mar­ket has been grow­ing at an annual rate of approx­i­mately 8 per­cent over the past decade. Nathanael John­son from Grist reports that approx­i­mately 35,000 acres of olive trees occupy the Golden State, and the Cal­i­for­nia Olive Coun­cil expects 3,500 new acres to be planted each year until 2020.

This season’s drought has ush­ered fears of under­pro­duc­tion and, while a recent report sug­gests a dip in pro­duc­tiv­ity, this has been attrib­uted to a harsh win­ter in 2013 and the fruit trees being alter­nate-bear­ing.” While this is con­sid­ered an off year” for the crop where decreased pro­duc­tion is antic­i­pated, the over­all mar­ket is on the rise.

Given the recent drought and pre­dic­tions for more intense weather pat­terns in the future, many farm­ers are aban­don­ing pre­vi­ously high-yield crops like rice and almonds for olives because of their heat-resis­tance.

The Fresno Bee recently reported, In the Sacra­mento Val­ley, where water dis­tricts have been shrink­ing water allo­ca­tions, the gritty olive tree, with its gnarly bark and thin, dusty-look­ing leaves, has become a go-to crop.” Olive farmer Dan Kennedy said, We can pro­duce (an olive) crop with 1 acre-foot of water per acre,” where crops such as almonds and rice demand at least twice as much water to pro­duce.

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