Uruguay Expects a Better Harvest Following a Disastrous One

Production is expected to rebound after a dismal harvest last year, but will not quite reach the highs of the 2018/19 crop.
Photo: Daniel Dawson
Dec. 31, 2020
Daniel Dawson

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After a his­tor­i­cally poor har­vest, Uruguayan pro­duc­ers are expect­ing a much bet­ter year in 2021, accord­ing to the country’s Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries.

The cur­rent har­vest in our coun­try (2020/21) is expected to be a good har­vest,” the min­istry wrote in its annual report on the agri­cul­tural sec­tor. It is esti­mated that the pro­duc­tion vol­ume is higher than the last har­vest, but with­out reach­ing the record lev­els of the 2019 har­vest.”

The 2018/19 crop year smashed records in the small South American coun­try, which is sand­wiched in between Argentina and Brazil, with pro­duc­tion exceed­ing 2,500 tons. Many young trees enter­ing matu­rity and favor­able cli­matic con­di­tions were both attrib­uted to the bumper har­vest.

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This was fol­lowed by a his­toric low the fol­low­ing sea­son, in which just 295 tons of olive oil were pro­duced, down from ini­tial esti­mates of around 700 tons. Low tem­per­a­tures and frost at the time of flow­er­ing com­pounded an off-year in the out­put cycle.

This year, how­ever, is more promis­ing for the country’s olive farm­ers, with bet­ter cli­matic con­di­tions dur­ing the flow­er­ing period and rain com­ing at the right moments for the trees.


As was to be expected, the ministry’s report also showed a sig­nif­i­cant drop off in Uruguayan olive oil exports in 2020. While the coun­try only shipped 116 tons of olive oil to for­eign des­ti­na­tions, the value of that oil nearly dou­bled com­pared with 2019.

From January to November, Uruguay sold its extra vir­gin olive oil abroad for an aver­age price of $5.318 (€4.34) per kilo­gram, com­pared with the $2.559 (€2.09) per kilo­gram in 2019 and just above the aver­age of the pre­vi­ous five years – $5.0128 (€4.09) per kilo­gram.

Over the past few har­vest sea­sons, there has been a renewed focus on qual­ity in Uruguay. The vast major­ity of the country’s pro­duc­ers see this as the only way to com­pete with larger pro­ducer nations in lucra­tive mar­kets, such as Brazil and the United States, to which more than 80 per­cent of Uruguayan exports are des­tined.

We have a small quan­tity of pro­duc­tion, but very high qual­ity,” Paula Ferrera, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Uruguayan Olive Association, told Olive Oil Times in a 2018 inter­view. Quality is the only way we can com­pete with larger pro­duc­ers, such as Argentina, but we can­not com­pete in vol­ume.”

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