Cautious Optimism as Olive Harvest Gets Underway in California

Estimates suggest olive oil production could reach three million gallons, a significant increase over last year.
San Miguel Olive Farm
By Thomas Sechehaye
Nov. 6, 2023 15:04 UTC

The olive har­vest is in full swing in California, the state respon­si­ble for most table olive and olive oil pro­duc­tion in the United States.

According to indus­try sources, olive oil pro­duc­tion is esti­mated to reach three mil­lion gal­lons (around 11.36 mil­lion liters), a sig­nif­i­cant increase from the 1.87 mil­lion gal­lons pro­duced in the pre­vi­ous crop year and nearly 25 per­cent above the five-year aver­age.

From what I see, the har­vest ton­nage will be good,” Nick Sciabica of Nick Sciabica & Sons in Modesto told Olive Oil Times. The tim­ing will be nor­mal. The oil con­tent was slow but started to increase to nor­mal dates.”

I am opti­mistic it will be a good har­vest,” he added. We will be in full pro­duc­tion by [the start of November].”

See Also:Global Olive Oil Production Set for Second Straight Year of Decline

However, pro­duc­tion increases have not been expe­ri­enced uni­ver­sally across the state, with some pro­duc­ers on the cen­tral coast and in north­ern California expect­ing bet­ter yields than their coun­ter­parts in parts of the Central Valley.

I believe the olive har­vest is split this year. It seems fine for the cen­tral coast and north­ern California grow­ers, but it is not very good for the Central Valley grow­ers like myself,” Giulio Zavolta, owner of Olivaia’s OLA in Lindsay, told Olive Oil Times.

Illustrating Zavolta’s point, Richard and Myrna Meisler, the hus­band-and-wife own­ers of San Luis Obispo County-based San Miguel Olive Farm, told Olive Oil Times that they expect a bumper har­vest after last year’s dis­ap­point­ing yield.

Only 40 per­cent of our trees pro­duced olives last year,” they said. However, 2023 will be a super har­vest, as 98 per­cent of our Tuscan trees have olives.”

The olive trees will give the farm­ers a great har­vest this year,” Richard Meisler added. All the grow­ers we have talked with will have a ban­ner year.”

According to Zavolta, cool and damp weather resulted in lower lev­els of pol­li­na­tion in some parts of the state, lead­ing to lower lev­els of fruit set.

After all that rain, the trees looked great, and in the spring, they flow­ered in ways they had not done in years,” he said. Unfortunately, we got a cou­ple of weeks where we barely saw the sun, and it was rel­a­tively cool just when the pollen was going to do its thing.”

The tem­per­a­ture sim­ply never got warm enough, and our olive set was amongst the low­est in years,” he added. After two bad years due to the drought, we were hop­ing for a good year to off­set some of the losses from pre­vi­ous years, but it will be another finan­cially dif­fi­cult year.”

Meisler added that despite more trees bear­ing olives, he sees smaller olive clus­ters on each tree.

What we see in the trees are smaller clus­ters, four instead of six olives, or one instead of three and so on,” he said. There were so many flow­ers; I believe the trees were stressed too early in the sea­son.”

According to Meisler, San Miguel has expe­ri­enced dif­fer­ent weather, with mod­er­ate heat dur­ing the day and cold nights.

The spac­ing of the olives is a bit incon­sis­tent, and the olive sizes are a bit smaller,” he said. Many trees are still very unripe, so that we may be about three weeks behind. We call it Nature’s choice’ and pay atten­tion to iden­tify the best har­vest tim­ing.”


With the har­vest occur­ring at dif­fer­ent times across California, pro­duc­ers are at var­i­ous har­vest­ing stages. For exam­ple, Zavolta said Olivaia’s OLA had already com­pleted the har­vest.

The yield was low as expected – low enough that farm­ing costs will not even be cov­ered, unfor­tu­nately,” he said.

Despite the low yield, Zavolta con­firmed that the olive qual­ity was excep­tional. The only rea­son to be opti­mistic is that, due to the low yield, the olives that we did har­vest looked great,” he said.

At San Miguel Olive Farm, Meisler fore­casted the olives trees to pro­vide a supe­rior qual­ity first har­vest oil, fol­lowed by a robust har­vest.

We expect two more har­vest days, one or two weeks after the first har­vest, depend­ing upon the matu­rity of the olives,” Meisler said.

Meanwhile, the California table olive fore­cast is 41,000 tons, up from last year’s crop of 19,912 tons. Record snow­fall and plenty of rain have relieved California’s drought, accord­ing to the California Table Olive Forecast.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the 2023 California table olive fore­cast esti­mated bear­ing acreage at 12,400 tons, result­ing in a yield of 3.31 tons per acre.

For table olives, the fore­cast is 39,000 tons for Manzanillo pro­duc­tion, 1,900 tons for Sevillano, and 100 tons for the other vari­eties.

While plen­ti­ful pre­cip­i­ta­tion helped relieve the state’s ongo­ing drought, stormy con­di­tions and flood­ing impacted bee pol­li­na­tion activ­ity and dam­aged some blos­soms.

The USDA con­firmed that sev­eral grow­ers reported vari­able crop yields, with Manzanillo yields con­sid­er­ably higher than Sevillano.


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