Agricultural Entrepreneur Has Sights Set on Brazil’s Olive Oil Sector

The founder of Azeite Batalha is working to promote olive oil production in Rio Grande do Sul and consumption across Brazil.

Photo: Igor Jacarini
Aug. 18, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Photo: Igor Jacarini

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One of the most sig­nif­i­cant Brazilian regions for high-qual­ity wine pro­duc­tion is also home to some of the best extra vir­gin olive oil in the world.

Campanha Gaúcha is located in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s south­ern­most state and its largest olive oil pro­ducer by a sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin.

As our focus is extra vir­gin olive oil qual­ity, we see a pro­gres­sive improve­ment due to bet­ter har­vest­ing tech­niques, equip­ment set­tings and knowl­edge and train­ing of our employ­ees.- Luiz Eduardo Batalha, owner, Azeite Batalha

Azeite Batalha is among Brazil’s top pro­duc­ers, grow­ing olive trees on more than 500 hectares on the 31st par­al­lel.

The company’s Black and Intenso brands, both medium blends, earned two Gold Awards at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest olive oil-qual­ity con­test, for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year.

See Also:Producer Profiles

“[It’s] a con­fir­ma­tion that we are on the right track, which is why we sub­mit our extra vir­gin olive oils to the experts,” owner Luiz Eduardo Batalha told Olive Oil Times.

We feel very proud that our olive oils are rec­og­nized as among the best in the world. And that is even more rel­e­vant in Brazil, which does not have a long tra­di­tion of olive grow­ing cul­ture,” he added. Eight years after our first har­vest, we have col­lected more than 40 inter­na­tional awards.”

Batalha noted that these awards have served as an inde­pen­dent con­fir­ma­tion of their high-qual­ity work and also improved the company’s pro­file among its cus­tomers.

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Luiz Eduardo Batalha

Before plant­ing his first olive trees, Batalha had a long track record as a busi­ness­man with var­i­ous tourism, man­u­fac­tur­ing and agri­cul­ture ven­tures.

In 1973, the Batalha fam­ily bought its first farm in the state of São Paulo to start a cof­fee plan­ta­tion. They later started to breed Mangalarga horses and exported them to Europe and the United States.

By 1976, Batalha decided to try his hand at tourism, build­ing a resort. A year later, he founded a con­struc­tion and allot­ment busi­ness and then launched a suc­cess­ful cat­tle ranch­ing enter­prise in Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso.

We have been in the agri­cul­ture busi­ness for five decades but only began to grow olive trees in Pinheiro Machado in 2010,” Batalha said.

Pinheiro is one of the old­est set­tle­ments on the south­ern edge of Campanha Gaúcha. It is known for its hilly land­scape and tem­per­ate oceanic cli­mate, with aver­age tem­per­a­tures between 7 ºC and 28 ºC.

This area is known to have one of the best Brazilian ter­roirs and is renowned for its vines,” Batalha said. Here, we found a per­fect cli­mate and soil to grow olive trees.”

Batalha invested in mod­ern machin­ery in his quest for qual­ity and founded state-of-the-art olive oil mills.

We imported the equip­ment from Pieralisi, in Italy, which is con­sid­ered among the best in the world,” he said. Batalha added that he founded two sep­a­rate farms, each with its own mill, to reduce the time between har­vest and trans­for­ma­tion.

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Photo: Igor Jacarini

Thanks to those two mills, we have been able to pro­mote olive tree cul­ti­va­tion in the region while also guar­an­tee­ing other local farm­ers could count on a high-qual­ity mill to trans­form their olives,” he said.

We are very focused on the devel­op­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for the region,” Batalha added. We can count on a great rela­tion­ship with the other farm­ers and some ongo­ing insti­tu­tional part­ner­ships with the [state-owned] Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and some uni­ver­si­ties whose researchers con­duct tests and analy­ses in our olive groves.”

In 2021, we were respon­si­ble for pro­cess­ing approx­i­mately half of the olive oil pro­duced in Brazil,” he con­tin­ued.

In the 2021/22 crop year, Brazil pro­duced an esti­mated 140 tons of olive oil, with 90 tons pro­duced in Rio Grande do Sul.

Batalha’s farm com­prises approx­i­mately 140,000 olive trees, mainly of the Arbequina, Arbosana, Koroneiki, Picual, Coratina and Frantoio vari­eties.

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We con­stantly visit the groves and keep an eye on the trees’ needs in terms of soil qual­ity, spray­ing, prun­ing, spac­ing and all other farm­ing aspects that might affect the trees,” Batalha said.

Most of the olive trees are rel­a­tively young. As a result, yields are expected to increase in the future. Batalha added that pro­duc­tion vol­umes increase as he becomes a bet­ter olive farmer and learns more about the trees.

We expect 2023 to be our pro­duc­tion record year,” he said. We have 11-year-old olive trees pro­duc­ing up to 120 kilo­grams of olives.”

The aver­age processed olive oil yield in recent years for Azeite Batalha has been 12 per­cent.

Olive yields vary sig­nif­i­cantly depend­ing on the cul­ti­var,” he said. As our focus is extra vir­gin olive oil qual­ity, we see a pro­gres­sive improve­ment due to bet­ter har­vest­ing tech­niques, equip­ment set­tings and knowl­edge and train­ing of our employ­ees.”

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For instance, at the mill, we always carry out pre­ven­tive main­te­nance and clean­ing of all our machines and equip­ment,” Batalha added. We have a qual­ity tech­ni­cian ded­i­cated to ana­lyz­ing and main­tain­ing the olive oil pro­cess­ing, stor­age and pack­ag­ing facil­i­ties in per­fect con­di­tion.”

Every cul­ti­var is har­vested accord­ing to its spe­cific needs, and the result­ing olive oil is stored in vari­ety-spe­cific stain­less steel tanks.

According to Batalha, olive oil con­sump­tion in Brazil will con­tinue to rise. We have seen sig­nif­i­cant changes in the past few years,” he said. People are becom­ing more aware of the health ben­e­fits of extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion, and start­ing to look for higher qual­ity prod­ucts” based on its organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics, col­ors, aro­mas and fla­vors.

It is an ongo­ing process,” Batalha added. It will take some time for Brazilians to cor­rectly dif­fer­en­ti­ate good and bad olive.”

In the last cou­ple of years, we have been pro­mot­ing many tast­ings at the points of sale, and we are soon going to launch an olive oil blog on our web­site,” he con­tin­ued. We also pro­mote vis­its from groups to our olive groves mills, where we orga­nize work­shops on the olive oil pro­duc­tion process and offer tast­ings.”

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While the impacts of cli­mate change are among his con­cerns, the Brazilian farmer said his farm is well-placed to adapt since the trees are very young, at least in the short term.

If we con­tinue to dete­ri­o­rate our envi­ron­ment and, as a con­se­quence, our cli­mate, our olive trees will end up suf­fer­ing from those changes,” he said.

Ever the entre­pre­neur­ial spirit, Batalha decided to face the chal­lenges posed by cli­mate change by cre­at­ing a new forestry project to pro­duce wood pel­lets for use as bio­mass fuel.

We have to focus on things we can con­trol,” he said. At the moment, our biggest chal­lenge is to keep the trees healthy and pro­ceed with har­vest­ing oper­a­tions as quickly as pos­si­ble, har­mo­nized to the mill capac­i­ties.”

Our focus is always on improv­ing, on train­ing our peo­ple, bet­ter our equip­ment and upgrad­ing our tech­niques,” Batalha con­cluded.


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