The earth is moist, the trees are blooming and the olives are shimmering as what looks set to be a record olive oil harvest gets underway in Australia.
The island nation is set for a mammoth year in olive oil production thanks to climatic conditions that have worked in the olive grower’s favor.
This is great news for Australian olive oil producers and consumers alike after what was a disappointing yield last year for most.
Expectations are that the amount of oil produced this year will be somewhere between 16,000 and 19,000 tonnes – well above the yields of 2009 and 2010.
Harvest is only just getting underway in Australia, starting in southern Queensland. It will wind up in Tasmania in July.
Australian Olive Association President Paul Miller said while expectations are that it should be a larger crop than last year and possibly a record harvest, it is still difficult to say exactly how it will go, with the main harvest taking place next month.
Hopes are that the extraordinarily wet conditions that Australia has seen this year will not interfere with the harvest. “Olives look great so far in most places although there are some issues with anthracnose in particularly wet and warm areas,” Mr. Miller said.
He said in general the oil should be great, with plenty of rain experienced during the growing season in most regions. The dry regions have irrigation water and there hasn’t been any exceptionally hot weather apart from in Western Australia.
Modern Olives Technical Director Leandro Ravetti said while a small amount of groves have been directly affected by floods, most of the industry in the eastern states enjoyed lots of rain and managed to reduce irrigation and water costs.
“Overall, I think that the rain will have a generally positive impact, not only for 2011, but also for the seasons to come,” he said.
He said there looks to be a good balance across the states this year. Most of the high production states are doing well, Western Australia is bouncing back after a low crop in 2010 and South Australia is also holding its share of production. Victoria will continue to supply more than half of the national crop.
It will be interesting to see just what type of oil and what quality this year’s harvest will bring due to the weather.
Mr. Ravetti said while the rainy conditions should be conducive to milder and more balanced oils, the cooler than average temperatures throughout spring and summer are likely to improve the fatty acid profiles and the intensity of most organoleptic attributes.
“Growers have generally been very conscious about controlling potential disease outbreaks so we are hoping to have a trouble-free harvest,” he said.
The above average rainfall which led to good vegetative growth throughout the growing season also brings positive expectations for next year’s season despite this year’s heavy crops.