Despite Drought, Anticipation of A Promising Olive Harvest in Chile

Producers expect a better olive harvest than last year but worry about inflation and the impact of rising prices on demand.

Aurora Olive Oil
By Daniel Dawson
Mar. 20, 2023 14:01 UTC
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Aurora Olive Oil

Despite the ongo­ing drought across much of the coun­try’s fer­tile cen­tral val­ley, grow­ers and pro­duc­ers across Chile are opti­mistic about the upcom­ing olive har­vest.

According to the coun­try’s mete­o­ro­log­i­cal agency, the hydro­log­i­cal deficit in the region con­tin­ued to grow in December, the last month for which data are avail­able. The entire cen­tral val­ley, home to most of the coun­try’s olive groves, is now in a mod­er­ate drought.

Everything indi­cates that the qual­ity of this pro­duc­tion is much bet­ter than last year.- Ismael Heiremans, agroin­dus­trial man­ager, Olivos del Sur

Still, pro­duc­ers expect the 2023 har­vest to exceed the 2022 har­vest, which yielded 21,000 tons of olive oil, slightly below the rolling five-year aver­age.

Apparently, it’s bet­ter than last year, but we’ll know when the har­vest is over,” Gabriela Moglia, the gen­eral man­ager of ChileOliva, a pro­ducer asso­ci­a­tion, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

Most pro­duc­ers antic­i­pate the har­vest to begin in the mid­dle of April and run through June, depend­ing on weather con­di­tions.

In the groves of Olivos del Sur, the country’s largest pro­ducer, agroin­dus­trial man­ager Ismael Heiremans told Olive Oil Times that the har­vest would begin in the sec­ond week of April and run until the end of June.

He said Olivos del Sur expects to pro­duce 3.1 mil­lion liters, about the same as the com­pany did last year. Everything indi­cates that the qual­ity of this pro­duc­tion is much bet­ter than last year,” he said. We also hope that this sea­son will be frost-free.”

Santiago Sarquis, Aura Olive Oil’s com­mer­cial man­ager, also expects an aver­age har­vest this year. He told Olive Oil Times that his com­pany would har­vest its 1,070 hectares of olive groves start­ing at the end of April.

This year, in gen­eral, an aver­age har­vest is being esti­mated; the last har­vest was rel­a­tively low for the indus­try and was badly hit by a frost dur­ing May,” he said. This year, for the moment, there are no big prob­lems from the agri­cul­tural point of view.”

José Manuel Reyes, the com­mer­cial man­ager at Agrícola Pobeña, told Olive Oil Times he antic­i­pates good results when the company’s har­vest also gets under­way in the sec­ond week of April.

For this har­vest, we hope to have very good results in terms of kilo­grams of fruit per hectare,” he said. This year, we had more rain than the last two years, which has allowed us to irri­gate the grove bet­ter than in pre­vi­ous years.”

We also project to have a bet­ter oil yield than last year, which was well below the his­tor­i­cal aver­age,” Manuel Reyes added.

While timely rain helped irri­gate Agrícola Pobeña’s groves in time for the har­vest, Moglia said the drought remained the pri­mary con­cern for pro­duc­ers nation­wide.

It remains the main chal­lenge for agri­cul­ture in gen­eral,” she said. Fortunately, weather experts have indi­cated that this win­ter [from June to September] could be wet­ter than in pre­vi­ous years.”

Since olive oil con­sump­tion remains quite low in Chile com­pared to pro­duc­tion – the country’s 20 mil­lion peo­ple con­sumed an aver­age of 9,400 tons of olive oil per annum over the past half-decade – many pro­duc­ers focus their efforts on exports.

According to the International Olive Council, the coun­try exported 7,300 tons of olive oil last year. In the past half-decade, Chile has exported 62 per­cent of its pro­duc­tion.

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Claudio Lovazzano, head of mar­ket­ing at Olivos del Sur, told Olive Oil Times that headaches cre­ated by the Covid-19 pan­demic and global sup­ply chain dis­rup­tions have given way to new chal­lenges.

A rather unsta­ble mar­ket due to global and local infla­tion, which has raised the costs of all inputs and the fall in olive oil pro­duc­tion in Europe, makes prices rise a lot, slow­ing con­sump­tion down a lot,” he said. There is also quite a bit of uncer­tainty in exchange rates as well, some­thing that affects us quite a bit as a mainly export com­pany.”

Sarquis echoed these con­cerns about ris­ing prices. While he believes it will help bulk exporters, he said ris­ing prices would be more com­pli­cated for bot­tled exports.

From a com­mer­cial point of view, the PoolRed [the online olive oil data­base run by the Andalusian gov­ern­ment] price is very high, which greatly helps bulk sell­ers,” Sarquis said. Bottle sell­ers are a bit more com­pli­cated because it is very dif­fi­cult to pass that price on to the final cus­tomer.”

However, Manuel Reyes is less wor­ried about some of these fac­tors, express­ing his relief that the global ship­ping rates have finally come down from unprece­dented highs in the past two years.

In pre­vi­ous years, we faced the con­trac­tion of many mar­kets due to Covid-19, added to the high rates and terms of mar­itime freight; this year, we have a more pos­i­tive sce­nario in this regard,” he said.

Therefore, we believe that the great chal­lenge will be in the har­vest and process to be able to obtain good yields while always main­tain­ing our focus on qual­ity,” Manuel Reyes con­cluded.



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