French Farmers Get Outside Help to ‘Professionalize’ EVOO Production

After an improved yet unexceptional olive harvest in France, olive growers are turning to a Spanish company for help.

This year’s olive harvest in France will amount to an estimated 6,000 tons, compared to last year’s catastrophic 3,200. This growth nevertheless remains problematic for the industry. The French olive plantation is barely producing 200 liters per hectare yearly.

We can’t rely on the new generation, they have neither the passion nor the devotion of their parents and grandparents.- Olivier Nasles, Afidol

France is the fourth consumer country of olive oil in the EU and the fifth worldwide with an average annual consumption of 110,000 tons. Yet, only 4 percent of the country’s consumption comes from the French production when more than 95 percent is imported mostly from Spain, Tunisia, Portugal and Italy.
See more: Olive Oil Consumption and Exports – Europe
For Afidol’s president, Olivier Nasles, “the country’s methods of production are to be called into question.” Aging producers, inefficient production methods, climate change and a lost know-how hold French producers back from competing with their neighbors.

As many as 75 percent of the 40,000 olive oil producers in the country are family-owned farms where olive growing is a secondary crop and where the new generation shows no real interest in pursuing agricultural activities. Nasles said.

For Nasles, family farming should cease to be the backbone of the French production. “We can’t rely on the new generation, they have neither the passion nor the devotion of their parents and grandparents.”

France needs mobility if it wants to win the productivity and competitiveness battle with the emerging markets such as Tunisia and Morocco. Nasles is calling on his peers to take control of their agricultural stagnation and to adapt, particularly to climate change.

After twelve years as head of Afidol, last year Nasles presented a report to the agricultural community on the vicissitudes of the olive oil market and proposed a reform by launching ‘Club Objectif 1000.’

The initiative will be set up in collaboration with Todolivo, the Spanish company (from Córdoba) that works to improve the health and productivity of olive groves. The consulting company accompanies its clients from the execution of the plantation to the pressing and sale of the oil.

The ‘Club,’ entirely financed by its thirty members, is a three-year plan that aims at training and professionalizing established olive growers.

The idea is to reach a constant and repetitive cultivation by applying Spanish know-how to the traditional French culture and acquiring new irrigation techniques.

The new production cycle will be undertaken by a French technician under the supervision of Todolivo. The target is to produce one-thousand liters per hectare, per year, on a 300-hectare surface.

However critical a review of the French olive oil sector may seem, there remains plenty of hope in Nasles’ opinion. If some farmers were able to produce, on a regular basis, 700 to 800 liters per hectare, “we will reconsider and adjust our methods.”

“The olive oil sector needs to be professionalized.”

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