Spanish Olive Growers Replacing Century-Old Trees With Young Ones

Intensive olive farming around the world has led Spanish olive growers to cut down ancient trees to remain competitive.
Apr. 29, 2021
Clarissa Joshua

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In a bid to cut costs and move to high-den­sity farm­ing, Spanish olive grow­ers are cut­ting down and sell­ing older trees as gar­den orna­ments or fire­wood.

The move comes as a result of increased com­pe­ti­tion from out­side of the Mediterranean, where mod­ern tech­niques and younger, more pro­duc­tive trees are threat­en­ing the sta­tus quo.

Olive grow­ers are increas­ingly aware that our future lies in the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of our olive oils and in trans­mit­ting to con­sumers the social and envi­ron­men­tal impacts that are at stake behind each liter of olive oil.- Cristóbal Cano, sec­re­tary-gen­eral, Union of Small Farmers and Ranchers

It is a shame about these cen­tury-old olive trees, but I have to cut them to move to inten­sive farm­ing,” said Juan Antonio Galindo, the owner of a farm near Seville. These olives have cost me €68 per kilo­gram and, in inten­sive, it works out to €15. The dif­fer­ence is huge.”

It is esti­mated that 70 per­cent of small olive farms in Spain can­not cover their costs.

See Also: In Bid to Boost Exports, Algeria Plants Millions of Olive Trees

According to Rafael Pico Lapuente, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Spanish Association of Olive Oil Exporting, Industry and Commerce (Asoliva), more than two-thirds of Spanish olive oil pro­duc­ers are small-scale oper­a­tions that often rely on tra­di­tional farm­ing meth­ods.

He believes there will be a restruc­tur­ing of these olive groves to keep up with mar­kets such as Australia and the United States, where inten­sive olive farm­ing is increas­ing. However, when and how this takes place on a larger scale in Spain remains to be seen.

It is not the major­ity who are uproot­ing cen­tury-old olive trees to farm inten­sively,” said Cristóbal Cano, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Spain’s Union of Small Farmers and Ranchers, adding that many are embrac­ing these ancient trees and the his­tory behind them.

I believe that olive grow­ers are increas­ingly aware that our future lies in the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of our olive oils and in trans­mit­ting to con­sumers the social and envi­ron­men­tal impacts that are at stake behind each liter of olive oil,” he added.

It is a sim­i­lar story in Italy, where older olive trees are preva­lent and small-scale olive grow­ers are the norm, with 97 per­cent of olive farm­ing busi­nesses owned by an indi­vid­ual. The future for small-scale olive grow­ers every­where will lie in their qual­ity and con­sumers’ appre­ci­a­tion of tra­di­tional farm­ing meth­ods.





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