` Severe Winter Damages San Juan Olive Plantations - Olive Oil Times

Severe Winter Damages San Juan Olive Plantations

Aug. 18, 2010
Daniel Williams

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The cold weather in San Juan, Argentina over the past sev­eral weeks is sim­i­lar to that expe­ri­enced in 2007- a year in which scores of olive groves, nearly 70 per­cent of the province’s total, were lost due to the drop in tem­per­a­ture. Olive oil busi­ness­men have already made their first pre­dic­tions and they are pes­simistic to say the least. The olive trees of the province’s east­ern zones already show signs of dete­ri­o­ra­tion as frost often kills flow­er­ing buds and the fruits them­selves. As a result, Argentinean pro­duc­ers with young plants are most likely to face crip­pling losses this win­ter.

According to Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), this year’s win­ter hours (those below 7 degrees Celsius/ 44.6 degrees Fahrenheit) are pre­dicted to reach some 1042 hours- 3 hours more than the total win­ter hours in 2007. The most dam­ag­ing of these hours, how­ever, are those which post below-zero tem­per­a­tures as these kinds of tem­per­a­tures will severely dam­age any exposed olive trees.

The pres­i­dent of the Olive Oil Association of San Juan, Antonio Olivares, spoke frankly of Argentinean pro­duc­ers’ fears: The sit­u­a­tion that olive grow­ers face at this moment is one of great con­cern. We pre­dict that within the next 20 days we will be able to assess the dam­age done to small plants and in September, the other plants as well, but so far every­thing indi­cates severe losses.”[1]

San Juan Argentina

Carlos Pasquet, a tra­di­tional olive pro­ducer from the San Juan region, explained these wor­ries fur­ther: This year’s prob­lems are sim­i­lar to what hap­pened in 2007, a ter­ri­ble year, but there are dif­fer­ences because we have had very high level of humid­ity as well as some snow, which should tem­per some of the dam­age done to the plants. Unfortunately, we have had plants frozen up until the cross-where the trunk divides into branches-and we have had zones where the plants are now totally use­less, which has been a dis­as­ter for many of my col­leagues in the region.”

The San Juan province is home to 18,600 hectares of olive trees, many of the Manzanilla vari­ety which is unfor­tu­nately highly sen­si­tive to the cold. The rest of the hectares are ded­i­cated to other vari­eties such as Arbequina or Changlot which are a bit more resis­tant to the cold. The 2009/2010 sea­son saw mas­sive reduc­tions in olive har­vests and olive oil pro­duc­tion, num­bers which showed vol­umes of only 50 – 60 per­cent of that of the pre­vi­ous year’s cam­paign. Industry experts say that in some ways these losses ben­e­fited pro­duc­ers as prices soared through the roof. The ques­tion now, how­ever, is whether Argentina will be able to meet an ever-increas­ing demand in the face of this winter’s severe losses.

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[1] Diario de Cuyo

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