As Harvest Begins in Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil Records First Exports

Over the past two decades, olive oil production in southern Brazil has gone from one man's dream to a small but booming industry. As the 2020 harvest gets underway, producers in Rio Grande do Sul prepare for another trailblazing year.

Fazendas Irapuá
Apr. 1, 2020
By Carola Dummer Medina
Fazendas Irapuá

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February seems light years away from this moment, but there was a time, a few weeks ago, when the threat of the coro­n­avirus seemed very dis­tant in the Southern Hemisphere, and all of Brazil’s inter­est was in the Carnival.

While most Brazilians were out in the streets cel­e­brat­ing, the olive har­vest was get­ting under­way in Rio Grande do Sul.

Producers in the largest olive-grow­ing region of the coun­try were in the process of press­ing and fil­ter­ing their first batches of extra vir­gin olive oil for the year. The first exports of the sea­son were also recorded, headed for the United States.

While we plant and pro­duce, we are also writ­ing his­tory.- Rafael Marchetti, Prosperato

Rio Grande do Sul is the south­ern­most state in the coun­try and is mostly home to sprawl­ing fields of soy­beans and rice. Bordering the pampa gaucha of Uruguay and Argentina, the region boasts some of the best cat­tle graz­ing lands on the con­ti­nent.

The his­tory of olive oil, how­ever, in this long-time agri­cul­tural region is very recent. Twenty years ago, Willy Haas, then an exec­u­tive of the O’Globo chain, wanted to invest in the Cachoerias area. He had a hunch that olive trees might grow well in the pampa gaucha.

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Back then, there were no olive oil pro­duc­ers in Brazil, and the agri­cul­tural com­pany that advised him was not enthu­si­as­tic about the idea. They thought there was no way that olive trees could thrive in the region.

In spite of their reser­va­tions, Haas went ahead with his plan and two decades later ful­filled his dream: He now has almost 200 acres of olive trees and is build­ing a mill.

Haas serves as a bit of a barom­e­ter for the country’s entire olive sec­tor. Since he planted his first trees to the present moment, Latin America’s largest coun­try has devel­oped a small but boom­ing olive oil indus­try.

He now hopes to launch his new brand this year, along with his daugh­ter, Glenda, who is in charge of the project.

While Haas was one of the first to bring olive trees to Rio Grande do Sul, Olivas do Sul was the pio­neer­ing olive oil pro­ducer that defied all the pre­dic­tions. Beginning pro­duc­tion in 2008, the com­pany put Brazil on the world olive oil map.

Prosperato

Following Oliva do Sul’s exam­ple, sev­eral other entre­pre­neurs decided to invest, and today, the region is home to the vast major­ity of Brazilian olive oil pro­duc­tion, which remains very small.

Overall, Brazil pro­duced 230,000 liters in 2019, with more than 60 per­cent of the yield com­ing from the groves of Rio Grande do Sul.

Of those 230,000 liters, Prosperato, the country’s largest olive oil pro­ducer, is respon­si­ble for roughly one-third.

Located in the Capaçava do Sul region of Rio Grande do Sul, the Marchetti fam­ily decided some years ago to expand their oper­a­tions from the nurs­ery busi­ness to other crops.

Olives were among the crops that piqued their inter­est but were thought to be too dif­fi­cult to sell at the time. Despite this, the Marchettis decided to buy an orchard in order to demon­strate that olive oil could be pro­duced in Brazil and thus attract new cus­tomers to their main busi­ness.

Their grand exper­i­ment yielded a Best in Class Award at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

These days, the mill is run by Rafael, one of the sons, who at the age of 25 man­ages every­thing with ded­i­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism, incor­po­rat­ing tech­niques and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions that he has seen in dif­fer­ent parts of the world.

With 65,000 liters pro­duced in 2019, a record-high har­vest, Prosperato remains the coun­try’s largest pro­ducer by a wide mar­gin.

This year, Marchetti thinks Prosperato will pro­duce about 20,000 liters, closer to their num­bers from other years.

It is a lit­tle frus­trat­ing, due to the spec­tac­u­lar flow­er­ing,” Marchetti said. We believe that the November rains affected us, or also the bian­nual [off-year].”

Everything is too recent to have a pat­tern,” he added. While we plant and pro­duce, we are also writ­ing his­tory.”

Rafael Marchetti, Prosperato

Along with being the country’s largest pro­ducer, Prosperato has also become the country’s first olive oil exporter, send­ing some of its fresh extra vir­gin olive oil to the United States.

With the Best in Class Award we received at NYIOOC last year, we caught the atten­tion of an American com­pany,” he said. They came to visit us and now it is pos­si­ble to buy Prosperato online in the U.S.”

However, for the time being, most of Prosperato’s pro­duc­tion is sold domes­ti­cally at the company’s own shop, Emporio Prosperato.

Situated next to the olive groves and on the high­way con­nect­ing Porto Alegre with the Argentine-Uruguayan bor­der, the store offers a selec­tion of local and imported prod­ucts to enjoy with their extra vir­gin olive oil.

We still have the great chal­lenge of edu­cat­ing con­sumers about this prod­uct, but we con­tinue our work,” Marchetti said.


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