Olive grove in Provence, France

A prolonged drought in the French department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is threatening the olive harvest which has just begun in the region.

France’s southeastern region has been experiencing a prolonged drought, with soil humidity levels down by 70 percent. Precipitation has been lower than average for most of 2016, and water-saving measures have been imposed in some areas.
See more: Complete Coverage of the 2016/2017 Olive Harvest
Though olive trees can resist drought-like conditions, a prolonged lack of water affects the olive fruit because the tree sheds part of its crop so that it can survive. “Trees have also been affected by a cold spring season that delayed the flowering and pollination stages,” Olivier Nasles, president of the French Interprofessional Olive Association (Afidol) told La Provence. “There will be fewer olives this year: We’ll probably get 3500 to 4000 tons of olive oil, compared to the 5600 tons we had last year…”

Olive growers in the neighboring Vaucluse department, where rain has also been sparse, are suffering a similar fate. “Since January, we’ve had only 300 millimeters of rain, which is less than half of the average,” pointed out Eric Mathieu, president of GOV, a group of olive growers in Vaucluse. “Growers here are not expecting a good harvest, in contrast to last year which produced a record crop of 700 tons of oil.”

Mathieu estimates that in Vaucluse, this year’s yield will come to 300 tons at the most: “Olives won’t even be picked in the old groves that are not irrigated, while in others, the olives are very small, or there are none at all.”

Growers who do have irrigation systems in place, are expecting a normal harvest. But compared to last year’s bumper crop, olive growers in the south of France are facing a mediocre to average harvest at best.

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