Business

Portugal Anticipates Record Yield

A 40-percent increase in olive oil production is expected when harvesting begins in October. Total production is expected to reach 140,000 tons, up from 100,000 tons last year.

Fresh olive oil at Esporao
Sep. 2, 2019
By Matthew Cortina
Fresh olive oil at Esporao

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Despite drought con­di­tions across the coun­try this past summer, Portugal is expect­ing a near-record olive oil yield in 2019.

Mariana Matos, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Casa do Azeite, the Portuguese Olive Oil Association said a 40-per­cent increase in olive oil pro­duc­tion is expected when har­vest­ing begins in October. Total pro­duc­tion is expected to reach 140,000 tons, up from 100,000 tons last year.

If we reach these pro­duc­tion values, it will be a record pro­duc­tion in Portugal.- Mariana Matos, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Casa do Azeite

The expected increase is due to “new and inten­sive plan­ta­tions” in the largest and south­ern­most grow­ing region in Portugal, Alentejo.

“If we reach these pro­duc­tion values, it will be a record pro­duc­tion in Portugal, the largest ever since there [have been] offi­cial records,” Matos said. The records go back to 1915. “This pro­duc­tion level is expected due to the high invest­ment that has been made in this sector, par­tic­u­larly in the last decade,” Matos added.

See more: The Changing Face of Alentejo’s Olive Oil

Though there are cli­matic dif­fer­ences between the Alentejo in the south and the Trás-os-Montes region in north­ern Portugal, much of the coun­try expe­ri­enced a hot and dry grow­ing season. Despite this, Matos said olive trees resist drought well, and “this year’s dif­fer­ences [in cli­mate] did not greatly affect olive pro­duc­tion in these regions.”

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Ramon Rivera, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Elaia, a part­ner­ship that pro­duces olive oil largely in Portugal, said, “bloom­ing was good and olives have devel­oped in an aver­age quan­tity,” in Elaia’s Portuguese groves. He agreed that 2019 is shap­ing up to be a better har­vest in Portugal than last year, even if it is not as good as in other parts of Europe.

“The Portuguese grow­ing season is going better than last year, although not as good as the news we hear from Italy or Greece,” Rivera said. Those two coun­tries, in par­tic­u­lar, expe­ri­enced his­tor­i­cally poor grow­ing sea­sons last year.

Spain pro­vides an inter­est­ing coun­ter­point to Portugal. Even though the coun­tries share the Iberian Peninsula, it is Portugal that appears to be in better shape in 2019.

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“Spain is in counter-cycle with the major other European pro­duc­ing coun­tries,” Matos said. “Last season, Spain recorded a very high cam­paign, and as far as we know at this point, a much lower olive oil pro­duc­tion is expected next season.”

Monte dos Valhascos

Rivera added that Elaia’s groves in Spain are “going to have a good crop, even though Spain is not expect­ing a good cam­paign due to lack of rain and last year’s great har­vest.”

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Both Rivera and Matos said they are not expect­ing pest or dis­ease to hamper har­vest in Portugal this year, and the drought con­di­tions, in fact, are help­ing stave off those hin­drances.

“If the weather con­tin­ues to be dry and hot, major dis­eases or pests that neg­a­tively affect qual­ity will not be expected, and in these cir­cum­stances, the qual­ity will be high,” Matos said.

Matos said the biggest obsta­cle to Portuguese pro­duc­ers in 2019 is the market. Even though yields have climbed in recent years — Portugal will har­vest more than 100,000 tons for three years in a row this year after dip­ping to 61,000 tons and 69,000 tons in 2014 and 2016 — the indus­try faces sev­eral chal­lenges.

“As in other European pro­ducer coun­tries, the main prob­lem that the sector is facing in Portugal is the low prices of the olive oil, which do not suf­fi­ciently pay pro­duc­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the more tra­di­tional pro­duc­tion areas, with higher pro­duc­tion costs and lower prof­itabil­ity,” Matos said.

Matos said har­vest­ing will begin across the coun­try in October, which is typ­i­cal. Rivera said Elaia’s part­ner pro­duc­ers will har­vest slightly “ear­lier than last cam­paign.”