After Bumper Harvests, a Sharply Lower Yield in Argentina

An ‘off-year’ harvest, lack of chill hours, and extreme weather events are expected to reduce the yield by as much as 40 percent.

The harvest will soon be underway in Solfrut's San Juan groves. (Photo: Solfrut)
By Daniel Dawson
Feb. 23, 2024 21:35 UTC
The harvest will soon be underway in Solfrut's San Juan groves. (Photo: Solfrut)

The start of the 2024 har­vest in Argentina is fast approach­ing, with pro­duc­ers across the country’s main olive-grow­ing regions, includ­ing La Rioja and San Juan, brac­ing for a dis­ap­point­ing crop.

While offi­cial data have not been pub­lished, the Argentina Olive Federation (AOF) esti­mated that the most sig­nif­i­cant olive oil-pro­duc­ing nation out­side the Mediterranean basin pro­duced 35,000 tons of olive oil in 2023.

This har­vest is likely to be worse than the pre­vi­ous one due to cli­matic fac­tors and because this should be an off-year’ com­pared to last year.- Guillermo Kemo, com­mer­cial direc­tor, Solfrut

Some antic­i­pated this year’s yield to fall in line with the aver­age of the pre­vi­ous off-year’ har­vests – about 27,000 tons – while oth­ers expected it to drop even fur­ther.

The 2024 har­vest will be a short one, with an esti­mated 40 per­cent decrease in pro­duc­tion com­pared to last year,” Julián Clusellas, pres­i­dent of Valle de la Puerta and an AOF board mem­ber, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:2024 Harvest Update

Based in La Rioja, the country’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, Clusellas cited many groves enter­ing an off-year’ in their nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle as the main rea­son for a lower expected har­vest.

There were three con­sec­u­tive years of good har­vests, so this year will be a bad har­vest,” he added.

In neigh­bor­ing San Juan, Guillermo Kemp, the com­mer­cial direc­tor of Solfrut and another AOF board mem­ber, agreed with Clusella’s har­vest pre­dic­tion, adding that some olive-grow­ing regions in Argentina had also faced adverse weather con­di­tions.

This har­vest is likely to be worse than the pre­vi­ous one due to cli­matic fac­tors and because this should be an off-year’ com­pared to last year, which was very good,” Kemp said. The cli­matic fac­tors have basi­cally been the lack of cold hours in the north – for exam­ple, in Chilecito, La Rioja – and on the con­trary, we have had frost prob­lems in San Juan.”

On and off years

Olive trees have a nat­ural cycle of alter­nat­ing high and low pro­duc­tion years, known as on-years” and off-years,” respec­tively. During an on-year, the olive trees bear a greater quan­tity of fruit, result­ing in increased olive oil pro­duc­tion. Conversely, an off-year” is char­ac­ter­ized by a reduced yield of olives due to the stress from the pre­vi­ous on year.” Olive oil pro­duc­ers often mon­i­tor these cycles to antic­i­pate and plan for vari­a­tions in pro­duc­tion.

Victoria Mercado, the gen­eral man­ager of El Mistol, another San Juan-based pro­ducer, agreed that the lack of chill hours in parts of Argentina had exac­er­bated what was already expected to be a low har­vest.


(Photo: El Mistol)

With this issue of global warm­ing, we had a few hours of cold in the win­ter, with lit­tle ther­mal ampli­tude,” she said. As a result, the olive trees could not pro­duce enough fat to achieve the best yields this year.”

Farther south in Mendoza, the sit­u­a­tion is slightly dif­fer­ent. The province syn­ony­mous with wine pro­duc­tion is respon­si­ble for less than a tenth of Argentina’s olive oil, with pro­duc­ers antic­i­pat­ing the 2024 har­vest to be sim­i­lar or supe­rior to 2023.

Mario Bustos Carro, the gen­eral man­ager of the Mendoza-based Chamber of Foreign Commerce of Cuyo, told Olive Oil Times that the province pro­duced about 2,500 to 2,800 tons of olive oil in 2023.

“[The sit­u­a­tion in the olive groves is] a lit­tle bet­ter than last year, so far,” he said. In Mendoza, the olive har­vest for oil begins at the end of April, the begin­ning of May, but January and February are the time of storms with hail.”

Some very strong ones have already been recorded, and if repeated, they could affect the quan­tity and qual­ity of pro­duc­tion,” he added, empha­siz­ing that it is too early to tell how the har­vest will play out.


Along with cli­matic chal­lenges, olive oil pro­duc­ers antic­i­pate an increase in pro­duc­tion costs ahead of the har­vest as Argentina’s recently elected gov­ern­ment removes sub­si­dies on elec­tric­ity and fuel to reduce ram­pant infla­tion and cal­i­brate the econ­omy.

While the pro­duc­tion decrease and ris­ing costs will make pro­duc­ing olive oil more dif­fi­cult in the short term, Clusellas said pro­duc­ers will man­age after another poor har­vest in Spain and high inter­na­tional olive oil prices.

Consumption in Argentina remains quite low, with the International Olive Council esti­mat­ing domes­tic olive oil intake to reach 7,500 tons in the 2022/23 crop year (which ended in October), or about 250 mil­li­liters per capita.

As a result, most of the country’s pro­duc­tion is exported to Brazil, Europe and the United States from the port of Buenos Aires. The IOC antic­i­pated ship­ments of Argentine olive oil abroad at 26,500 tons in 2022/23.

Luckily, we had a very good har­vest in 2023 with good olive oil prices,” Clusellas said. Therefore, olive grow­ers are in pretty good health.”

However, he warned that an aver­age or bumper har­vest in Spain in the 2024/25 crop year would be dis­as­trous for Argentine pro­duc­ers. If the har­vest goes very well in Spain, prices will fall, and Argentine pro­duc­ers will lose prof­itabil­ity,” Clusellas con­cluded.

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