Award-Winning Catalan Producer Bets on Growing Demand for Arbequina

Two heat-hampered harvests have not deterred the producers behind Gaudea, who are betting that demand for Arbequina extra virgin olive oil will keep growing.
While finding workers is less problematic in Lleida, mechanized harvestign has helped make Gaudea a more cost efficient operation. (Photo: Gaudea)
By Daniel Dawson
Apr. 16, 2024 00:44 UTC

After another chal­leng­ing har­vest in Catalonia, the pro­duc­ers behind Gaudea are cel­e­brat­ing their debut award at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Situated in Lleida, about 100 kilo­me­ters west of Barcelona, the fam­ily com­pany earned a Silver Award for a medium-inten­sity Arbequina native to Catalonia.

We are very excited to have won the Silver Award at the NYIOOC,” said Alba Comadran Turu, a spokes­woman for the com­pany. This recog­ni­tion means a lot to us and is a tes­ta­ment to the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion our team has invested in the pro­duc­tion of our pre­mium Gaudea Signature oil.”

See Also:Producer Profiles

Originally ded­i­cated to grow­ing grains, the com­pany shifted its focus to extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion in 2009.

Since then, Gaudea has expanded from 52 hectares of Arbequina groves to 75 hectares cur­rently in pro­duc­tion. Gerardo Camps, the company’s direc­tor, said there will be 150 hectares in pro­duc­tion in the com­ing years.


Gerard Camps is overseeing the tripling of Gaudea’s olive growing. (Photo: Guadea)

Gaudea’s extra vir­gin olive oil is cer­ti­fied with the Les Garrigues Protected Designation of Origin from the European Union. Our oil has a bit­ter and spicy pro­file,” Camps said. It is a sweet and mild oil with a high fruiti­ness.”

According to Les Garrigues reg­u­la­tory con­sor­tium, which applied for the PDO, extra vir­gin olive oil must be made with Arbequina or Verdiell olives and is char­ac­ter­ized as fruity: green­ish in color with a taste of bit­ter almonds, and sweet.”

The Gaudea fam­ily cel­e­brated the award’s announce­ment, which capped off a chal­leng­ing har­vest in Catalonia, Spain’s fourth-largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region.

We had a 40 per­cent reduc­tion in the har­vest because there was a heat wave at the time of blos­som­ing that burned the flow­ers and resulted in fewer olives being pro­duced,” Camps said.

In a typ­i­cal year, the com­pany pro­duces about 100,000 liters of olive oil from its super-high-den­sity groves. However, this year, the com­pany pro­duced 60,000 liters.

Overall, data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food show that Catalonia pro­duced 31,224 tons of olive oil in the 2023/24 crop year, an increase from last year’s his­toric low. Lleida was respon­si­ble for 8,667 tons.

With plenty of flow­ers on the olive trees, there is hope that pro­duc­tion could increase again in the 2024/25 crop year.


Gaudea specializes in three types of Arbequina monovarietals, including a robust early harvest, a mild later harvest and an organic.(Photo: Gaudea)

But there is still a lot of time for things to change,” Camps said. We will have a bet­ter idea after June or July when the trees have fin­ished blos­som­ing and olive dru­pes begin to form.”

Camps wor­ries that a pre­ma­ture heat wave could once again hurt pro­duc­tion. At this time last year, there were many flow­ers on the trees, but the heat wave dam­aged them,” he said.

Along with high tem­per­a­tures in the spring, Camps said that unsea­son­ably hot weather in October, when the har­vest begins, is another chal­lenge the com­pany has faced in recent years.

In October, it is still very hot, and tem­per­a­tures reach 30 ºC on many days,” he said. We start at 7:15 a.m. when the sun rises and fin­ish by 10 or 11 a.m.”


Camps would start even ear­lier, but he har­vests the super-high-den­sity groves mechan­i­cally, and a ban on night­time mechan­i­cal har­vest­ing means he can­not begin before day­break.

By noon, when tem­per­a­tures reach their daily max­i­mum, Camps said the olives and the oil inside them are already begin­ning to heat. Thus, har­vest­ing fin­ishes for the day, and the focus shifts to trans­port­ing the olives to a local mill.

Gaudea has invested in cool­ing sys­tems to store the olives below 27 ºC while they are trans­ported to the mill and until they are trans­formed into olive oil.

This way, we pro­duce an olive oil that is fruity and more bit­ter,” he said. The com­pany also plans to build a mill in the com­ing years.

While high spring tem­per­a­tures remain the pri­mary con­cern, the com­pany has also invested to hedge against the ris­ing annual prob­a­bil­i­ties of severe drought.


Guadea has invested in drip irrigation to maximize water resources in an increasingly hot and dry Catalonia. (Photo: Guadea)

Eastern Catalonia has expe­ri­enced an extreme drought over the past year, with water restric­tions in place in Barcelona and Girona. In Lleida, Camps said there has been enough rain dur­ing the win­ter, and reser­voirs remain at ade­quate lev­els to ensure no restric­tions.

However, the Gaudea team has plans to adapt to Spain’s chang­ing cli­mate. Experts antic­i­pate the Iberian penin­sula to become steadily hot­ter and drier over the com­ing decades.

All of the company’s olive groves have drip irri­ga­tion sys­tems, and the team care­fully mon­i­tors pre­cip­i­ta­tion lev­els and soil mois­ture to use water as effi­ciently as pos­si­ble. You don’t need as much water as before; with drip irri­ga­tion, we achieve the same results with less water,” Camps said.

Despite these chal­lenges, pro­duc­tion and sales con­tinue to increase. High prices at ori­gin and lower avail­abil­ity over the past two years have meant that sales have slowed slightly over the past year and a half, but Camps believes the upward trend will con­tinue.

Camps said the higher prices have helped bal­ance out sig­nif­i­cantly higher pro­duc­tion costs.

Production costs have increased by 50 per­cent for phy­tosan­i­tary prod­ucts, fer­til­iz­ers and worker com­pen­sa­tion,” he said. Considering the lower pro­duc­tion, the price of pro­duc­ing a kilo­gram of olive oil is about €6.”

Once the har­vests return to nor­mal lev­els, he antic­i­pates that prices at the ori­gin will set­tle around €6 or €7 per kilo­gram, which he said is good for con­sumers and pro­duc­ers.

According to Infaoliva, extra vir­gin olive oil prices at ori­gin are cur­rently €7.140 per kilo­gram, down from the record-high €8.988 per kilo­gram in mid-January.

While the high prices at ori­gin resulted in a shift in con­sumer behav­ior, Camps said they are a wel­come change from the lows recorded through­out the 2019/20 crop year.

At the time, prices hov­ered around €2 per kilo­gram, and many farm­ers and millers could not cover pro­duc­tion costs.

Despite chal­lenges sur­round­ing higher costs and cli­mate change, Camps remains opti­mistic about the sec­tor’s tra­jec­tory.

Prices have almost dou­bled in the past year, but demand has remained very good,” he said. While con­sump­tion in Spain has fallen sig­nif­i­cantly due to lower avail­abil­ity, con­sumers are buy­ing almost all the avail­able olive oil.

With each pass­ing year, con­sumers con­tinue to attribute more value to olive oil, and they con­tinue to buy high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil despite the higher prices,” Camps con­cluded.


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