`Deep Freeze Destroys 15 Percent of Olive Harvest in El Comtat - Olive Oil Times

Deep Freeze Destroys 15 Percent of Olive Harvest in El Comtat

Jan. 10, 2011
Charlie Higgins

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Spain’s olive oil indus­try was hit hard the last week of 2010 as freez­ing tem­per­a­tures destroyed over 3.5 mil­lion pounds (1.5 mil­lion kilos) of olives in the Condado de Cocentaina, also known as El Comtat, one of the country’s prin­ci­ple grow­ing regions.

Annual olive pro­duc­tion was already sig­nif­i­cantly lower than expected due to crop dam­age dur­ing a par­tic­u­larly snowy win­ter the pre­vi­ous year. Snow-dam­aged trunks and branches resulted in the loss of more than 6.6 mil­lion pounds (3 mil­lion kilos) of olives in 2010.

The icy tem­per­a­tures, some mea­sured as low as 19.4 degrees F, only served to make mat­ters worse for olive farm­ers in the region. The worst affected areas were those in the River Seta Valley, such as the vil­lages of Gorga, Balones and Quatretondeta. Olive farms sur­round­ing El Benicadell, the tallest peak in the region, also suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant losses.

Those munic­i­pal­i­ties affected by the extreme weather have yet to receive mon­e­tary aid from the Ministry of Agriculture or other gov­ern­ment agen­cies, despite efforts. However the pri­vate research orga­ni­za­tion Proaguas sub­si­dized by the Provincial Council has pub­lished a detailed report cov­er­ing the losses.

Of the affected olive vari­eties, the Late Blanquette was hit the hard­est, fol­lowed by the Manzanella vari­ety.

Although the dam­aged olives were not ren­dered entirely use­less, the lower qual­ity oil obtained from them can only be used in refined oils. International prices for these infe­rior oils are pal­try com­pared to prices of the high-qual­ity extra vir­gin oils grow­ers were seek­ing.

According to the Asociación Española de Municipios del Olivo (AEMO) olives exposed to sub-zero tem­per­a­tures for sev­eral hours suf­fer dam­ages to their inter­nal tis­sues, result­ing in oils of lesser qual­ity in the future. Oil obtained from these frozen olives” pro­duces a char­ac­ter­is­tic dry after­taste and can’t be sold as extra vir­gin.

Olives weren’t the only crop dam­aged by severe weather last year. Spain’s orange, let­tuce, arti­choke and zuc­chini indus­tries also fell vic­tim to record-break­ing cold spells.


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