Algerian Olive Oil Sector Maintains Momentum Despite Poor Harvest

Olive oil production in the 2023/24 crop year is expected to be about 50 percent below average. Still, officials are confident that the sector is poised to grow.
By Ofeoritse Daibo
Apr. 16, 2024 01:32 UTC

Despite a dis­ap­point­ing har­vest in Algeria, farm­ers and offi­cials are opti­mistic that the sec­tor in Africa’s third-largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing nation will con­tinue on its upward tra­jec­tory.

According to Olivier Rives, the project man­ager of the PASA pro­gram, which spent five years pro­mot­ing the country’s olive oil sec­tor, pro­duc­tion in the 2023/24 crop year was roughly 40 per­cent below ini­tial expec­ta­tions.

In its annual pre-har­vest pro­jec­tion pub­lished in November, the International Olive Council esti­mated that Algeria would pro­duce 93,000 tons, which would have been in line with the aver­age of the pre­vi­ous five years.

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

However, Rives told Olive Oil Times the county will more likely pro­duce between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of olive oil in 2023/24, about 50 per­cent below the five-year aver­age.

Arezki Toudert, the pres­i­dent of the National Committee for the Olive Sector, told local media that the coun­try’s hot sum­mer and autumn pre­vented ade­quate oil accu­mu­la­tion in olives that did sur­vive and favored the devel­op­ment of the olive fruit fly just as the har­vest was about to begin.

This year was really dif­fi­cult for olive grow­ers,” he said. Just after the start of flow­er­ing, around June, the intense heat of around 50 ºC swept the north of the coun­try in July, caus­ing enor­mous losses. Only the irri­gated olive groves here and there were spared.”

The cli­matic con­di­tions favored the pro­lif­er­a­tion of this pest, par­tic­u­larly the rise in tem­per­a­tures dur­ing September and October,” Toudert added.

Despite the set­backs, offi­cials remain con­fi­dent that olive oil pro­duc­tion in Algeria can con­tinue its upward trend.

Since IOC records began, yields have steadily climbed in Algeria, ris­ing from an aver­age of 21,500 tons per annum from 1990/91 to 1994/95 to between 70,000 and 90,000 tons over the past half-decade.

While olive oil pro­duc­tion tra­di­tion­ally cen­tered on Algeria’s north­ern coast­line and slightly wet­ter Atlas Mountains, the sec­tor has expe­ri­enced remark­able expan­sion spear­headed by a gov­ern­ment effort to plant 400,000 hectares of olive groves.

In Kabylia, the largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region in the coun­try, cul­ti­va­tion has spread to semi-desert and desert areas in the south, trans­form­ing arid land­scapes into more ver­dant olive groves.

Traditional olive groves com­prise about 64 per­cent of Algeria’s olive-grow­ing sur­face area. In com­par­i­son, high-den­sity and super-high-den­sity groves make up 21 and 15 per­cent, respec­tively, but these groves are increas­ing.

The olive-grow­ing areas in the north are con­sid­ered tra­di­tional or exten­sive’ because the groves con­tain less than 100 olive trees per hectare,” said Yamina Derdah, an olive oil con­sul­tant at Oleiconseil. In other words, there is no com­pe­ti­tion between the olive trees, unlike the south­ern parts that are more inten­sive,’ where there are more than 250 olive trees per hectare.”

As a result, Derdah said the wild­fires that burned across the coun­try’s north in recent years will have a lim­ited impact on pro­duc­tion and new olive tree plan­ta­tions.

Still, she believes tra­di­tional olive groves will play an essen­tial role in the sec­tor as cli­mate change con­tin­ues to make North Africa hot­ter and drier.

The north­ern area is also highly resilient and has adapted to cli­mate change,” Derdah said. Although there are fewer trees, and the region does­n’t make much olive oil, it is resis­tant. The north is in the moun­tains and requires less water because it is far­ther away from the desert.”


Algeria is among the world’s top ten olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries dur­ing a good year. However, Rives said the coun­try has his­tor­i­cally con­sumed vir­tu­ally all of its pro­duc­tion.

At one point, 99 per­cent of its pro­duc­tion was intended for domes­tic con­sump­tion,” he said. The coun­try con­sumed all it made, leav­ing noth­ing to sell abroad.”

What was left­over to export was low-qual­ity lam­pante, which could not be sold as olive oil in Europe since this type of oil is used pre­dom­i­nantly for mak­ing soaps and can­dles,” Rives added.

Despite its wide­spread preva­lence, a study by PwC, one of the Big Four global account­ing firms, and PASA found that olive oil is still seen by many in Algeria as a com­mod­ity-qual­ity prod­uct.

The sur­vey of 800 Algerian house­holds and 300 Algerians liv­ing abroad found that 99 per­cent of respon­dents con­sumed other veg­etable oils, such as rape­seed and soya, along­side olive oil.

According to Rives, the study showed that Algerians in the dias­pora and at home over­whelm­ingly pre­fer lower qual­ity olive oil or lam­pante; 80 per­cent of respon­dents pre­ferred this. They don’t like extra vir­gin olive oil.” He noted that the same was true in Spain 30 years ago.

A local his­to­rian explained that three gen­er­a­tions of Algerians became accus­tomed to lower-qual­ity olive oil because many years ago, a major local pro­ducer had exclu­sively mar­keted this oil to the pub­lic,” he added. Today, it still reminds some of their child­hood. However, there are no health ben­e­fits.”

As a result, Algeria exports most of the vir­gin and extra vir­gin olive oil it pro­duces each year. Algeria sells large quan­ti­ties of its olive oil to coun­tries like Tunisia, Libya, Canada, European coun­tries and across the globe,” Derdah con­firmed.

However, Rives believes that the younger gen­er­a­tion of Algerian con­sumers are shift­ing pref­er­ences toward vir­gin and extra vir­gin olive oil.

There is a ris­ing demand for extra vir­gin olive oil and a dimin­ish­ing demand for lam­pante,” Rives said. Social media influ­encers are edu­cat­ing their par­ents on car­dio­vas­cu­lar health. In turn, these new con­sumers are dri­ving pro­duc­ers to improve qual­ity.”

Rives and Derdah believe the com­bi­na­tion of mar­ket forces and ini­tia­tives such as the PASA pro­gram will con­tinue to pro­mote domes­tic demand for extra vir­gin and vir­gin olive oil and increase the capac­ity to sup­ply these supe­rior olive oil grades to for­eign mar­kets.

The pop­u­la­tion of olive grow­ers is eager to change,” Rives said. It’s like wine in France. Olive oil is in all the tra­di­tions. All the rit­u­als include olive oil. Therefore, pro­duc­ers have a huge appetite to improve qual­ity.”


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