The area of the Southern Spanish region of Andalusia is famed for its large coverage of olive groves and high levels of extra virgin olive oil production. However, recent data suggests a new trend is emerging in the region, with a 21 percent increase of organic olive groves.
The increase, which equates to 1,979 additional hectares, was made up of 810 new ecological olive groves, only 25 percent of which were planted in remote slope or mountain areas. This continues the trend of recent years of a move away from the traditional mountains and steep slopes where it is difficult to transport machinery and the olives.
The increase comes despite some evidence suggesting that organic orchards were less productive than their conventional counterparts and that they were often run in a more part-time capacity. However, studies also suggest that organic olive farmers are generally younger, more involved in management, attend more educational courses and are more commonly members of agricultural associations, perhaps resulting in a more business savvy, ecologically aware breed of olive farmers.
A study published by the Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research also suggested that organic olive farmers believed that, whilst ecological agriculture was more time consuming and required greater effort, the returns were superior to conventional farming methods. This attitude may be responsible, in conjunction with an increasing worldwide demand, for the growing number of organic olive groves.
The area of Andalusia has seen a steady increase in ecological olive farming over the past years, with a 37 percent increase in organic olive grove area since 2004, providing products to meet the growing demand worldwide for organic agricultural produce. The strong presence of the Andalusian ecological agriculture sector was represented recently at the Third European Market for Organic Products in London this September, where nine organic Andalusian companies promoted their products, including three olive oil producers from Jaén and Córdoba.
Export to the U.K. provides substantial business opportunities for Andalusian companies. Although Britain promotes the use of local, regional produce, unreliable weather conditions throughout the year means that foreign produce is a necessity, particularly for produce such as olives and their products.