`Severe Winter Damages San Juan Olive Plantations

S. America

Severe Winter Damages San Juan Olive Plantations

Aug. 18, 2010
By Daniel Williams

Recent News

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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