Andalusian Producers Overcome Obstacles to Triumph at 2021 NYIOOC

Andalusian producers celebrated an excellent year at the World Competition, despite severe weather and Covid-19 dampening the 2020 harvest.
Photo: Oro Bailen
Jun. 15, 2021
Clarissa Joshua

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Part of our con­tin­u­ing spe­cial cov­er­age of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The world’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region – Andalusia – was respon­si­ble for the vast major­ity of Spain’s 104 awards at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The region faced sim­i­lar prob­lems as the rest of Spain, with weather and the Covid-19 pan­demic being the most sig­nif­i­cant issues.

Social media net­works went crazy; sud­denly, every­one wanted to know our brand and the Gold Award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oil.- Alvaro Pallarés, com­mer­cial direc­tor, Oleico Pallarés

Many groves in Andalusia expe­ri­enced sub­stan­tially less rain­fall than pre­vi­ous years, mean­ing pro­duc­ers had to imple­ment dif­fer­ent meth­ods and har­vest­ing strate­gies.

Irrigating in the early hours or night­time was one such prac­tice, and the unsea­son­ably warm tem­per­a­tures when many were har­vest­ing the olives led to work­ers pick­ing the fruit at the start or end of the day.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Spain

As a result, Andalusia is expected to har­vest 1.1 mil­lion tons, a 25-year low and 250,000 fewer tons than pre­vi­ously antic­i­pated.

Multiple lock­downs and social dis­tanc­ing impacted the work­force and pro­ce­dures, both in the groves and the mills. Enforcing new ways of work­ing was the norm, and keep­ing work­ers safe was a top pri­or­ity across the board, although even find­ing work­ers was more trou­ble­some last year for many pro­duc­ers.

Exporting was also a key point of con­cern with obvi­ous cost impli­ca­tions and dif­fi­cul­ties sort­ing logis­tics. This was com­pounded by the harsh real­ity of restric­tions the world over, mean­ing extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers could not attend the usual fairs and busi­ness meet­ings, mak­ing enter­ing new mar­kets dif­fi­cult.

Despite all of the chal­lenges, Andalusian pro­duc­ers had yet another extra­or­di­nary year at the 2021 NYIOOC. Almazara Andres Aguilar was among the biggest win­ners, tak­ing home an impres­sive five Gold and two Silver Awards.


Photo: Almazara Andres Aguilar

It feels amaz­ing to win so many awards,” Tim Balshi, Soraya Aguilar and Angres Aguilar, the fam­ily behind the almazara, told Olive Oil Times. Our suc­cess is a tes­ta­ment to our tal­ented team of experts, who spend all year plan­ning and mon­i­tor­ing fruit qual­ity, weather and of course, cre­at­ing the ideal envi­ron­ment at our mill to make award-win­ning oils, which is never an easy task.”

When we first started to taste this year’s batches last October, we knew all of that hard work had paid off when we tasted high aroma, har­mo­nious green qual­ity olive oils,” they added.

Balshi and the Aguilars believe it is their incred­i­ble degree of pre­ci­sion, tal­ented agron­o­mists and qual­ity engi­neers that set them apart from the com­pe­ti­tion. However, this work was made more dif­fi­cult last year.

The low yields most pro­duc­ers expe­ri­enced this year had a direct impact on our costs, and it was much more dif­fi­cult to pro­duce qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil than years past,” they said. We had to fight to make the high-qual­ity green oils we so pas­sion­ately pro­duce.”

The fam­ily, which also imports olive oil into the United States under the aus­pices of the MillPress Imports com­pany, added that the Covid-19 pan­demic also brought plenty of chal­lenges.

It’s been tricky find­ing labor, and of course, the dis­tanc­ing makes it chal­leng­ing to work with our team in noisy envi­ron­ments,” they said. Of course, the pan­demic severely ham­pered sup­ply chain items such as equip­ment parts. Logistics and sea con­tainer book­ing has been another unex­pected expen­sive hur­dle that fur­ther delays the arrival of fresh oils into the U.S., our pri­mary mar­ket for sales.”

Another pro­ducer who won five Gold Awards, and also a Silver Award, was Oro Bailen, which has spe­cial­ized in early har­vest oils for 15 years.


Photo: Oro Bailen

It is a plea­sure to receive the recog­ni­tion and endorse­ment of the qual­ity of our oils that with so much care and effort we elab­o­rate each cam­paign,” Edurne Rubio, the company’s com­mer­cial direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times.

Already export­ing to 35 coun­tries, win­ning awards from such a highly val­ued com­pe­ti­tion as the NYIOOC always helps com­mer­cially, espe­cially after a chal­leng­ing har­vest sea­son, Rubio added.

Every year, we encounter dif­fer­ent adver­si­ties, due to the nat­ural con­di­tion of the ter­rain, the cli­mate and other fac­tors that can affect pro­duc­tion in one way or another,” Rubio said. But this year, we were also faced with a pan­demic and the risk of hav­ing to stop pro­duc­tion due to con­ta­gion to per­son­nel… Fortunately, and tak­ing all pre­cau­tions, every­thing went well, and we were very sat­is­fied with the results.”

Oro del Desierto was also among the multi-award-win­ning Andalusian brands at this year’s com­pe­ti­tion, earn­ing two Gold Awards. Since 2014, the com­pany has won two Best in Class Awards and 14 Golds at the com­pe­ti­tion.


Photo: Oro del Desierto

We are very happy, the United States is a mar­ket of great impor­tance for us, and this con­test is highly val­ued there and in Canada,” Rafael Alonso Barrau, the company’s com­mer­cial and export direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times. Apart from being a con­test, it is a pro­mo­tional tool for those mar­kets.”

He added that the unique desert cli­mate in which the com­pany pro­duces its extra vir­gin olive oil has helped it to stand out each year.

We are a fam­ily busi­ness, located in the only desert in all of Europe, with more than 3,000 hours of sun a year and less than 200 liters of rain per square meter,” Alonso Barrua said.

See Also:Andalusian Cooperative Crafts Award-Winning Olive Oil With Soul

This gives our oils unique char­ac­ter­is­tics, which together with an organic cul­ti­va­tion, sus­tain­able man­age­ment mea­sures and man­u­fac­tur­ing in the mill with extreme care, we obtain a truly unique prod­uct due to its ori­gin and way of obtain­ing it,” he added.

The biggest chal­lenges the pro­duc­ers faced last year were the cli­mate and the pan­demic, but they coped admirably with lit­tle inci­dence, Alonso Barrua added.

The sec­tor never stops, espe­cially in crises, it is when food is most needed,” he said

Indeed, domes­tic sales in Spain grew by 18.7 per­cent in the first two months of 2021, com­pared to the pre­vi­ous period.

Some pro­duc­ers were newer to the NYIOOC and still man­aged to find suc­cess. Campos de Sanaa entered the com­pe­ti­tion for the sec­ond year in a row. They have won Gold Awards both years.


Photo: Campos de Sanaa

Obtaining such an impor­tant recog­ni­tion as the Gold Award at the NYIOOC not only fills us with joy but also dri­ves us to main­tain and improve the qual­ity of our prod­ucts more and more,” José Baptista, the company’s direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times.

Since the com­pany only entered the American mar­ket a few years ago, Baptista also believes the recog­ni­tion will help build trust with busi­ness part­ners over the qual­ity and com­mit­ment of the busi­ness.

He added that this year’s award is even more grat­i­fy­ing after hav­ing to over­come a spike in Covid-19 cases just as the har­vest was get­ting under­way.

In September, October and November, we went through a sig­nif­i­cant rebound in cases, right at the time of har­vest­ing our early crops, so we had to over­come many obsta­cles to make the har­vest on time,” Baptista said. Contacting the staff for the day, main­tain­ing the rules of dis­tanc­ing, try­ing not to risk the health of our work­ers at all times was a pri­or­ity.”

An even newer entrant to the NYIOOC was the fam­ily busi­ness, Oleico Pallarés, which entered for the first time in 2021 and won Gold for their Herriza de la Lobilla brand.

It was an incred­i­ble sur­prise, we did not believe it, and we had to read it twice to real­ize that we were not dream­ing and we had achieved the Gold Award,” Alvaro Pallarés, the company’s com­mer­cial direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times.

Pallarés added that the com­pany noticed the impact of win­ning their first Gold Award from the very first minute.

Social media net­works went crazy; sud­denly, every­one wanted to know our brand and the Gold Award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oil,” he said.

The company’s mono­va­ri­etal Hojiblanca extra vir­gin olive oil comes entirely from cen­te­nary olive trees in the Osuna coun­try­side of Seville, a place with an olive tra­di­tion forged before Roman times,” Pallarés said.

Our olive trees are framed in a unique nat­ural set­ting, fer­tile land in which olive trees grow that results in an extra vir­gin olive oil with unique aro­mas with a high con­cen­tra­tion of antiox­i­dants, polyphe­nols, and a high con­tent of vit­a­min E,” he added.

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