` California Yield Will Be Lower than Predicted - Olive Oil Times

California Yield Will Be Lower than Predicted

Dec. 18, 2020
Daniel Dawson

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The California olive oil crop is expected to fall short of an ini­tial esti­mate of 2.5 mil­lion gal­lons (11,500 tons), accord­ing to a report from the Olive Oil Commission of California (OOCC).

A short har­vest sea­son with many pro­duc­ers enter­ing an off-year con­tributed to the smaller-than-expected yields, along with com­pli­ca­tions from the Covid-19 pan­demic and cli­matic chal­lenges all.

In the olive’s alter­nate bear­ing cycle we are in a low year. Within that cycle our grove looks good and because of the lower quan­ti­ties of olives, the olives we do have look great.- Giulio Zavolta, co-founder, Olivaia Olives

The revised har­vest esti­mates are sig­nif­i­cantly lower than those made at the begin­ning of autumn, which pre­dicted the United States would pro­duce about 16,500 tons — the vast major­ity from California.

According to the OOCC, many pro­duc­ers reported hav­ing only four weeks to har­vest their olive crop this year as opposed to the nor­mal six.

See Also: 2020 Harvest Updates

Many pro­duc­ers also entered off-years, with per-acre yields report­edly drop­ping by two to three tons in the highly pro­duc­tive Sacramento Valley. Producers from plenty of other parts of California also reported smaller olive har­vests.

In the olive’s alter­nate bear­ing cycle we are in a low year,” Giulio Zavolta, the co-founder of Olivaia Olives in Lindsay, California, told Olive Oil Times. Within that cycle our grove looks good and because of the lower quan­ti­ties of olives, the olives we do have look great.”

We are still opti­mistic about the poten­tial qual­ity of the oil,” he added.

The Covid-19 pan­demic also took its toll on the har­vest, both increas­ing the costs of pro­duc­tion and trans­porta­tion as well as lead­ing to worker short­ages.

Often, temp agency work­ers sim­ply did not show up for a shift and any sick­ness symp­toms kept employ­ees home,” Jonathan Sciabica, of Sciabica Family California Olive Oil, told the OOCC.

Along with impact­ing the har­vest, pro­duc­ers said the pan­demic also low­ered sales as demand from the hos­pi­tal­ity and restau­rant sec­tor dropped. In some cases, indi­vid­ual sales also fell as a result of the eco­nomic fall­out of the pan­demic.

The mar­ket for olive oil with restau­rants closed is abysmal,” Geoffrey Peters, of Showa Farm, told Olive Oil Times in October. I have almost 50 per­cent of last year’s har­vest unsold.”

Finally, episodes of bad weather also impacted some areas of the state. Parts of the cen­tral coast, includ­ing Chico and Fresno, were report­edly hit by frost dur­ing the har­vest.

The 2020 olive har­vest was also marked by incred­i­bly dry weather through­out the year, with pro­duc­ers telling the OOCC that rain­fall was almost non-exis­tent.” The lack of rain­fall dur­ing key moments of the devel­op­ment of the olives con­tributed to the lower yields.

However, at the south­ern end of the state, some pro­duc­ers reported hav­ing too much rain in the spring. This inter­fered with pol­li­na­tion and led to smaller yields.

While we avoided losses, we are still antic­i­pat­ing a low-vol­ume har­vest,” Fabien Tremoulet, the co-owner of Pitchouline, told Olive Oil Times. We also mill for sev­eral local grow­ers and have been told that the har­vest will be low. The heavy spring rain dur­ing pol­li­na­tion was most likely the cause.”

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from the United States

Still, many pro­duc­ers told the OOCC that they were expect­ing high-qual­ity yields and reported oils with notice­ably fruitier notes this year along with some bit­ter­ness.”

This sea­son was short but sweet,” Brady Whitlow, the pres­i­dent of Corto Olive, told the OOCC. Low fruit yields but good oil quan­tity and excel­lent oil qual­ity.”

With the 2020 har­vest mostly behind them now, many pro­duc­ers are look­ing for­ward to a more fruit­ful har­vest next year.

Currently we are all being forced to become more cre­ative and spon­ta­neous in our pro­ce­dures and restric­tions,” Karen Roach, the owner of Olea Farm, told Olive Oil Times. However, she added that the olive tree has his­tor­i­cally been a sym­bol of per­se­ver­ance, reflec­tive of the spirit of California’s pro­duc­ers.

They can weather drought, storms, cli­mate change, nat­ural dis­as­ters and with their resilience, will sur­vive and will gen­er­ously and faith­fully offer their gift of olive to us all,” she con­cluded.


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