Andalusian Producers Achieve Outstanding Quality After Disastrous Harvest

After the smallest harvest in more than a decade, producers in Spain earned their fourth-highest award count at the World Olive Oil Competition.

Sustainability is critical for Quaryat Dillar, which produces extra virgin olive oil in the Sierra Nevada Natural Park.
By Daniel Dawson
Jun. 21, 2023 18:46 UTC
Sustainability is critical for Quaryat Dillar, which produces extra virgin olive oil in the Sierra Nevada Natural Park.

With the malaise of the 2022/23 crop year fully in the rearview mir­ror, grow­ers and pro­duc­ers across Andalusia reflected on the season’s chal­lenges and tri­umphs.

According to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the world’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­try expe­ri­enced its low­est yield since 2012/13, with a yield of 673,130 tons.

In the end, it is about know­ing the ter­ri­tory and the fruit and pro­duc­ing it in the best pos­si­ble con­di­tions.- Rafael Alonso Barrau, com­mer­i­cal and export direc­tor, Oro del Desierto

Meanwhile, Andalusia, the country’s most pro­lific pro­duc­ing region, expe­ri­enced a har­vest of just 510,725 tons.

It has been a dif­fi­cult year, with a lot of heat dur­ing the [2022/23] har­vest the first few days and with adverse weather con­di­tions in gen­eral in Spain,” Rafael Alonso Barrau, the com­mer­cial and export direc­tor of Almería-based Oro del Desierto, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:The best extra vir­gin olive oils from Spain

Even so, we have been able to obtain great qual­ity that is also being rec­og­nized with inter­na­tional awards,” he added. Every year is a new chal­lenge, and you have to face it as best as pos­si­ble to get the most out of what you have.”

Alonso Barrau was not alone in his analy­sis that olive oil qual­ity did not suf­fer as much as quan­tity. Growers and pro­duc­ers in Spain earned 106 awards from 135 entries at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

While national pro­duc­tion reached its low­est point in the last decade, the award tally rep­re­sents Spain’s fourth high­est at the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion, which has been held for over a decade. Unsurprisingly, pro­duc­ers from Andalusia took home the lion’s share of Spain’s awards.


Olive oil quality awards help expand Oro del Desierto’s consumer base in the United States.

For their part, the team behind Oro del Desierto earned two Gold Awards. Alonso Barrau said the com­pany had entered the NYIOOC every year since its incep­tion, adding that the com­pe­ti­tion is a barom­e­ter for qual­ity.

Surely the con­sis­tency in the way of work­ing [explains our con­tin­ued suc­cess],” he said. We have a method to pro­duce high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil and a com­mit­ment to our clien­tele; in the end, it is about know­ing the ter­ri­tory and the fruit and pro­duc­ing it in the best pos­si­ble con­di­tions.”

While the vast major­ity of Andalusia’s sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tion decrease was attrib­uted to high heat in May 2022, which dam­aged many olive trees as they blos­somed and resulted in a sig­nif­i­cant decrease in fruit­set, drought was another chal­lenge that com­pli­cated the har­vest.

Located in the Tabernas Desert, fre­quently cited as Europe’s dri­est region, Alonso Barrau said Oro del Desierto had worked dili­gently over the years to mit­i­gate the impacts of drought and get the most out of the harsh and arid envi­ron­ment.

Drought is a con­stant,” he con­firmed. We are used to man­ag­ing prun­ing and soil to make effi­cient use of the lit­tle rain. We also use an under­ground deficit irri­ga­tion sys­tem to be able to pro­vide help with water resources at key moments in olive tree phe­nol­ogy.”

We also use a weather sta­tion and real-time data to exe­cute a very effi­cient irri­ga­tion strat­egy with which we achieve har­vests in this hos­tile envi­ron­ment,” he added.

Slightly less than 200 kilo­me­ters west of the Tabernas Desert, the Almazaras de la Subbética olive groves in Córdoba did not fare much bet­ter.


The 8,000-member cooperative earned four awards at the 2023 NYIOOC, despite reaching only half of their usual yield.

It would be hard to tell that after the 8,000-member coop­er­a­tive earned three Gold Awards and a Silver Award at the 2023 NYIOOC.

The main chal­lenge of the 2022/23 crop year was the lack of rain and the high tem­per­a­tures,” María Carmen Rodríguez Comino, the cooperative’s mar­ket­ing direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times.


Although qual­ity oil has been obtained, it has been in less quan­tity than in other years,” she added. In raw num­bers, this year, we pro­duced just 40 per­cent of the pre­vi­ous cam­paign.”

Rodríguez attrib­uted the cooperative’s endur­ing suc­cess at the com­pe­ti­tion to the tech­ni­cal team that advises the mem­bers dur­ing every step of the process, from the grove to the mill.

Receiving inter­na­tional recog­ni­tion is always a proud moment,” she said. It means recog­ni­tion of our team’s hard work, espe­cially after a cam­paign as dif­fi­cult as this one.”

José Antonio López, the direc­tor of Cooperativa Olivarera Virgen De La Sierra De Cabra, also based in Córdoba, agreed that win­ning awards in New York is impor­tant for coop­er­a­tives, espe­cially as they begin to expand to inter­na­tional mar­kets.


The 70-year-old coop­er­a­tive, boast­ing over 1,000 mem­bers, earned two Gold Awards at the NYIOOC.

Now that we are start­ing to sell out­side of Spain, it is a great pride to be awarded in New York,” Antonio López told Olive Oil Times.

He attrib­uted the coop­er­a­tive’s suc­cess at the com­pe­ti­tion to increased invest­ment in the farm­ing and milling processes and the coop­er­a­tive’s bet on organic cul­ti­va­tion.

However, Antonio López said the ongo­ing drought across south­ern Spain had been a chal­lenge, with an increased invest­ment required to receive lower pro­duc­tion vol­umes.

This past year has been very com­plex due to the envi­ron­men­tal and drought con­di­tions that the farm­ers have faced,” he said. This makes it dif­fi­cult both to extract an aver­age pro­duc­tion vol­ume and to guar­an­tee opti­mal qual­ity.”

“[To mit­i­gate these impacts,] we are train­ing farm­ers to raise aware­ness about the opti­miza­tion of resources to carry out the har­vest,” Antonio López added. Our objec­tive is focused on con­tin­u­ing to pro­vide the same level of qual­ity to our cus­tomers.”

Sandwiched in between the Sierras Subbéticas and the Tabernas Desert are the goves of Almazara Quaryat Dillar. The Granadan pro­ducer earned its sixth award at the 2023 NYIOOC.


The high-altitude groves of Quaryat Dillar help mitigate the devestating impacts of high temepratures during olive tree blossoming.

Winning the Gold Award for our oil was a great joy as it cer­ti­fies that we are mov­ing in the right direc­tion to obtain an oil of the high­est qual­ity,” co-owner Antonio Velasco told Olive Oil Times. It is a recog­ni­tion of all the work and effort of the team of peo­ple who make this com­pany pos­si­ble.”

He added that the fam­ily company’s team­work and ded­i­ca­tion to the com­mon objec­tive of qual­ity over quan­tity explains the producer’s sus­tained suc­cess in the com­pe­ti­tion, along with the unique ter­roir of Granada.

Since we are a fam­ily busi­ness located in the Sierra Nevada Natural Park, our oils come from a high-alti­tude olive grove that delights us with unique aro­mas and fla­vors,” he said.

Due to the grove’s loca­tion in a nat­ural park, Velasco said his com­pany must focus on sus­tain­abil­ity and pro­duc­tion, which adds to costs. He added that Andalsuia’s ongo­ing drought and the moun­tain­ous topog­ra­phy also pre­sented numer­ous chal­lenges.

With the 2022/23 har­vest offi­cially con­cluded, pro­duc­ers in Andalusia are look­ing ahead to the next har­vest with trep­i­da­tion.

While some rain fell in Andalusia at the end of May and early June, pro­vid­ing minor relief, pro­duc­ers across the region con­firmed to Olive Oil Times that Andalusia would likely have another poor har­vest.


Solar panels help power the mills at Almazaras de la Subbética, but too much sun and not enough rain means the 2023/24 harvest will also be well-below average.

Right now, in the month of June, we are hav­ing some rain that is reliev­ing the grove a lot, but unfor­tu­nately, the rain arrived late,” Rodríguez said. The next cam­paign is also almost lost because, in the key months of olive tree flow­er­ing, which are April and May, we have had tem­per­a­tures of 40 ºC as if we were in the mid­dle of sum­mer.”

The sit­u­a­tion is worse than last year,” she added. Much of the crop has been lost due to the lack of rain­fall and high spring tem­per­a­tures.”

Velasco con­firmed that the view from Granada is not dis­sim­i­lar to that from Córdoba. Currently, the olive grove is in worse con­di­tions than last year due to the drought,” he said.

In Almería, Alonso Barrau also con­firmed that the sit­u­a­tion is a bit worse than last year.

The rain did­n’t come until mid-May when it did fall a lot, and the olive tree blos­somed strongly but with­out enough water and with too much heat at the end of April,” he said. Then, at the begin­ning of June, there were storms with some hail, so the prospects in terms of quan­tity are not very good a pri­ori in Almería.”

Likewise, in the whole of Andalusia, the fore­casts are bad due to the pro­longed drought that has neg­a­tively affected flow­er­ing,” Alonso Barrau added. I can say that Andalusia will once again have a rather low har­vest for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year.”

In Córdoba, Antonio López has largely come to the same con­clu­sions as other Andalusian pro­duc­ers.

After mak­ing sev­eral vis­its to the groves and speak­ing with farm­ers in the region, the sit­u­a­tion is sim­i­lar to last sea­son,” he said. Although it has rained in June, the rains are late. It was also very hot in the mid­dle of the month of flow­er­ing [May], so the dam­age has already been done.”

Now we have a long sum­mer ahead in which the olive tree has to resist high tem­per­a­tures,” Antonio López con­cluded. The next crit­i­cal point will be next September and October; those rains will be cru­cial to deter­mine the final pro­duc­tion vol­ume.”

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