Producers in Algeria Anticipate Worst Harvest in 30 Years

North Africa’s largest country is expected to produce just 30,000 tons of olive oil in the 2022/23 crop year, about one-third of the rolling five-year average.

(AP Photo)
Nov. 18, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
(AP Photo)

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Adverse weather con­di­tions and dev­as­tat­ing wild­fires have resulted in low expec­ta­tions for the olive har­vest in Algeria.

Local observers told Olive Oil Times they expect pro­duc­tion to reach no more than 30,000 tons in the 2022/23 crop year. The aver­age olive oil yield in the last five years sits at 94,800 tons.

In Kabylia, we have expe­ri­enced not only a reduc­tion of olives on the trees but also a wide­spread drop of leaves. On top of that, it is an alter­nate bear­ing sea­son.- Nagueb Ladjouzi, exporter

If con­firmed, this year’s yield would rep­re­sent a 70 per­cent drop com­pared with the pre­vi­ous sea­son, which fin­ished with 98,0000 tons and would be the low­est since 2009/10, International Olive Council data indi­cate.

The Algerian gov­ern­ment and pro­duc­ers have focused on expand­ing pro­duc­tion in the last decade, and in 2019/20, they achieved a record olive oil yield of 126,000 tons from approx­i­mately 500,000 hectares of olive groves.

See Also:2022 Harvest Updates

It is esti­mated that 70 mil­lion olive trees are grown in the coun­try, and in the next few years, the Algerian olive sec­tor aims to plant 400,000 more hectares.

The sig­nif­i­cance of olive grow­ing in the coun­try prompted the Algerian gov­ern­ment to have the National Institute of Agronomic Research select 15 olive oil pro­duc­ers from the main pro­duc­ing regions to par­tic­i­pate at SIAL Paris, a food and bev­er­age show.

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However, these pro­duc­ers have faced plenty of adver­sity this year. In 2021, wild­fires dev­as­tated Tizi Ouzou, a highly pro­duc­tive olive-grow­ing province in the Kabylia region.

It is esti­mated that the blazes destroyed between 10,000 and 15,000 hectares near the Mediterranean coast, east of the cap­i­tal, Algiers. In the most affected areas, grow­ers are already replant­ing olive trees and graft­ing new cut­tings on dam­aged trees that are in the con­di­tion to be restored.

The cli­mate has changed a lot, the drought tends to take place dur­ing the rainy sea­sons, such as autumn and win­ter, with a poor dis­tri­b­u­tion of rain­fall dur­ing the year,” Nagueb Ladjouzi, an exporter from Kabylia, told Olive Oil Times.

It sig­nif­i­cantly affects the pro­duc­tion of the olive tree, its flow­er­ing, fruit set­ting and fruit devel­op­ment,” he added.

According to Ladjouzi, this year’s pro­duc­tion drop is due to extreme heat affect­ing the mostly-rain­fed olive groves at a moment of altered pre­cip­i­ta­tion pat­terns.

He said the sud­den tor­ren­tial rain­fall and some rain in the autumn do not com­pen­sate for the warmer-than-aver­age tem­per­a­tures expe­ri­enced for months and a drier-than-expected sum­mer.

Those con­di­tions resulted in a loss of flow­er­ing in spring that affected the whole of Algeria,” Ladjouzi added. And in Kabylia, we have expe­ri­enced not only a reduc­tion of olives on the trees but also a wide­spread drop of leaves. On top of that, it is an alter­nate bear­ing sea­son.”

Kabylia pro­duc­ers mostly grow the Chemlal olive vari­ety.

Its genome has not changed since ancient times, its genet­ics remain the same,” Ladjouzi said. It is often mis­taken for the Chemlali vari­ety grown in Tunisia, while it is actu­ally much more sim­i­lar to the Carolea cul­ti­var grown in Calabria, in Italy.”

Both the Chamlel and the Takesrit vari­eties develop aro­mas that are char­ac­ter­ized more closely as black fruity if har­vested at matu­rity,” he added. You can develop green fruits by pick­ing them early, but their aro­mas will be insignif­i­cant or even taste­less.”

Even though olive oil is an estab­lished ingre­di­ent in local cui­sine and is com­monly con­sid­ered a rem­edy for sev­eral health con­di­tions, olive oil qual­ity has never been a pri­or­ity among most con­sumers.

Still, high-qual­ity pro­duc­ers, mostly located in the north­ern or cen­tral regions of the coun­try, are increas­ingly par­tic­i­pat­ing in olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tions, allow­ing them to reach inter­na­tional audi­ences.

Hakim Alileche, a miller and owner of Dahbia, empha­sized how rel­e­vant the inter­na­tional mar­ket is for local pro­duc­ers.

We began our plan­ta­tion of olive trees in 2004 in the Benahar region and con­tin­ued plant­ing until 2014 when we reached our planned dimen­sions,” Alileche told Olive Oil Times. The pro­ducer now has 15,000 trees grown on 40 hectares.

The Alileche farm started pro­duc­ing olive oil five years ago, invest­ing in a mod­ern mill with equip­ment imported from Italy.

This allows us to press our olives a few hours after the har­vest, some­times in just half an hour,” he said. Cold extrac­tion, with­out added water or heat, launches our prod­ucts to a supe­rior qual­ity,” Alileche noted, adding that his oils have been awarded in both Japan and Dubai.

While most of the olive oil pro­duced in the coun­try is con­sumed inter­nally, Alileche is among those who export most of his organic extra vir­gin olive oil.

Right now, we have demand from cus­tomers that con­tact us from all over the world,” he said. We have already been export­ing to some European coun­tries.”

Dahbia, a trade­mark that rep­re­sents the name of both Alileche’s mother and wife, was built near the city of Djelfa, on the Ain Oussera plateau in north-cen­tral Algeria, where the farm has ade­quate access to water for irri­ga­tion.

Alileche’s groves rep­re­sent about 18 per­cent of all irri­gated Algerian olive groves, a sig­nif­i­cant advan­tage as cli­mate change is expected to reduce the amount of rain­fall in the future, World Bank data indi­cate.

Despite the chal­lenges fac­ing the sec­tor, many towns in Kabylia cel­e­brated the start of the har­vest.

They do the so-called sac­ri­fice of olives, a rit­ual orga­nized by the fam­i­lies com­mit­ted to olive pick­ing,” Ladjouzi said. At the end of the har­vest, an imensi uze­muur takes place, a com­mu­nity meal which cel­e­brates the event with a con­vivial evening of songs and dance.”

In Kabiylia, the olive tree is sacred,” he con­cluded.



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