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Producers in California Expect a Return to Normal Yields This Season

The California Olive Oil Council estimates that olive oil production will reach about 4.0 million gallons this year, a 135-percent increase compared with last year's dismal harvest.

Photo courtesy of Phil Asquith.
Aug. 28, 2019
By Daniel Dawson
Photo courtesy of Phil Asquith.

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Pro­duc­ers and offi­cials across Cal­i­for­nia are expect­ing a return to nor­malcy this year after a series of unusual weather events led to a large pro­duc­tion decrease in the 2018/19 crop year.

My esti­mate for this year will likely be close to 4.0 mil­lion gal­lons [around 13,800 tons],” Patri­cia Dar­ragh, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Olive Oil Coun­cil (COOC), told Olive Oil Times. In 2018, pro­duc­tion was way down due to weather issues in the first quar­ter. Last year we had about 1.6 to 1.8 mil­lion gal­lons pro­duced. A sig­nif­i­cant decrease.”

We are feel­ing good about this year’s har­vest. Last year was a his­tor­i­cally bad har­vest for all of Cal­i­for­nia and we feel we are return­ing to more tra­di­tional vol­umes.- Michael Fox, CEO of Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch

Last year, a series of unusual weather events includ­ing an early bloom and late frost led to a 57-per­cent decrease in olive oil pro­duc­tion, which was far lower than had been orig­i­nally antic­i­pated. Many farm­ers lost most or all of their olive crops and sev­eral pro­duc­ers had no oil to sell to their usual clients.

Last year was very dif­fi­cult with many of our groves expe­ri­enc­ing poor pro­duc­tion,” Cliff Lit­tle, the pres­i­dent of Corto Olive, told Olive Oil Times. In some cases the crop was so poor that we did­n’t even har­vest. I don’t expect that to be the case this year.”

See more: 2019 Har­vest News

Lit­tle added that he had been expect­ing a very big year in terms of pro­duc­tion, but spring rains slightly damp­ened these prospects.

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I don’t think it will be the best crop year that we have seen in Cal­i­for­nia, in regards to vol­ume,” he said. How­ever, we expect sig­nif­i­cant increases over last year.”

Corto Olive are not the only ones expect­ing a big rebound in pro­duc­tion this year. At Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch, the largest olive oil pro­ducer in the state, new CEO Michael Fox told Olive Oil Times that he expected a return to nor­malcy.

We are feel­ing good about this year’s har­vest,” he said. Last year was a his­tor­i­cally bad har­vest for all of Cal­i­for­nia and we feel we are return­ing to more tra­di­tional vol­umes.”

While the COOC and pro­duc­ers will ulti­mately have to wait until the begin­ning of the har­vest in Octo­ber and Novem­ber to see how accu­rate their pre­dic­tions are, pro­duc­ers from across the state are hop­ing to recoup some finan­cial losses incurred by last season’s poor har­vest.

Last year we had almost noth­ing, but man­aged to squeeze out enough oil to keep us going,” Richard Meisler, the co-owner of San Miguel Olive Farm, told Olive Oil Times. This year pro­duc­tion will be plen­ti­ful. We will be in a great posi­tion and could very well make up the loss.”

Lit­tle is also con­fi­dent that this year’s har­vest will help make up for last year, in which Corto Olive could not meet their cus­tomers’ full demand for olive oil and had to put all of them on allo­ca­tion.

We are hope­ful that increases in pro­duc­tion this year will help to off­set some of the finan­cial hard­ship our groves felt from last year,” he said. “[We] are con­fi­dent that we will have enough oil to meet our mar­kets demand mov­ing for­ward.”

All of the pro­duc­ers inter­viewed for this story by Olive Oil Times said that they were antic­i­pat­ing good qual­ity from their oils this year, as they do almost every year.

The chal­lenge for the whole Cal­i­for­nia olive oil sec­tor mov­ing for­ward will be ensur­ing suf­fi­cient pro­duc­tion. Pro­duc­ers in the state learned a long time ago how to man­age the nat­ural on and off-years expe­ri­enced by olive trees, but will now need to adapt to a more tur­bu­lent cli­mate as well.

Phil Asquith, the owner of Ojai Olive Oil, told Olive Oil Times that he suf­fered a sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tion decrease from his own olive groves last year, but was able to buy enough olives in order to keep his pro­duc­tion sta­ble.

Our pro­duc­tion is the same every year, as we specif­i­cally tar­get to pur­chase enough olives beyond our own to get to exactly what we need,” he said.

As a result of this strat­egy, Asquith said that he does not need earn­ings from this year’s har­vest to makeup for the pre­vi­ous one.

It doesn’t really work that way for us, but this year will cer­tainly be bet­ter than last year, and bet­ter for grow­ers,” he said. That being said, peo­ple are used to the cycli­cal nature of the har­vests, and to the swings being espe­cially large these days, so noth­ing is unex­pected.”


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