Despite Drought, Croatia Enjoys Fruitful Harvest

Producers across Croatia are expecting a bumper harvest after timely rain saved many from the scorching summer drought.
By Nedjeljko Jusup
Nov. 14, 2022 19:46 UTC

Croatian olive grow­ers are rub­bing their hands together in sat­is­fac­tion. Except for the islands of Hvar and Vis, the har­vest across the rest of the coun­try was bet­ter than expected.

The bumper har­vest comes despite the chal­lenges of pro­longed drought and scorch­ing sum­mer tem­per­a­tures.

I don’t remem­ber a har­vest (as good as) this in the 50 years I’ve been work­ing in olive grow­ing.- Blaž Jurin, man­ager, Primošten Burnje agri­cul­tural coop­er­a­tive

The drought started at the end of spring,” said Edi Druzetić, a well-known local agron­o­mist. Fortunately, fer­til­iza­tion was good, so the branches are full of fruits. They are smaller than usual, and they ripen more slowly, but the fruits are healthy since there were no dis­eases or pests due to the high tem­per­a­tures.”

For more than 40 years, Druzetić has been pro­fes­sion­ally and pas­sion­ately engaged in olive grow­ing. As part of the Agroprodukt com­pany, he takes care of 12,000 olive trees, mainly the domes­tic Buža, Istarska bjel­ica, Rosinjola and Rosulja vari­eties, on 45 hectares in west­ern Istria.

See Also:2022 Harvest Updates

The har­vest began a lit­tle later this year and is still going on, espe­cially in​south­ern Istria, where the drought was more pro­nounced.

We haven’t even har­vested half of it yet, and in terms of quan­tity, we have more than we har­vested last year,” Druzetić said.

This year, Druzetić expects to pro­duce 30,000 liters, more than the pre­vi­ous year’s aver­age. His Torćol, Salvela, Punta Cissana and Aurum blend brands have been awarded mul­ti­ple times at domes­tic and inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, includ­ing the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Uljara Vodnjan, both the old­est and most mod­ern Croatian pro­ducer, accord­ing to insid­ers, oper­ates as part of Agroprodukt.

The mill, which has existed in the same place for more than 100 years, was com­pletely ren­o­vated and mod­ern­ized last year and now includes new higher-capac­ity equip­ment. We can process up to three tons per hour,” Druzetić said.


The mill opened on October 7, and its own­ers expect to process around 12,000 tons by the end of the sea­son, twice as much as last year. Along with Istrian grow­ers, some come from the Kvarner islands – located east of the Istrian penin­sula in Kvarner Bay – to trans­form their olives.

In addi­tion to Istria, oil mills are also work­ing at full steam in​Dalmatia.

I don’t remem­ber a har­vest like this in the 50 years I’ve been work­ing in olive grow­ing,” said Blaž Jurin, the long­time man­ager of the agri­cul­tural coop­er­a­tive in Primošten Burnje.

He added that there were more fruits than usual since fer­til­iza­tion went well, but the long-term drought and high tem­per­a­tures slowed the olives’ devel­op­ment and ripen­ing.

The sea­son was widely sal­vaged in Dalmatia by timely rain at the end of September and the begin­ning of October, which allowed the fruits to recover some oil accu­mu­la­tion.

However, har­vest­ing was also delayed in Dalmatia for the same rea­sons as in Istria, with high tem­per­a­tures in late October and early November delay­ing the ulti­mate ripen­ing of the olives.

Part of what has made this year’s har­vest stand out com­pared to pre­vi­ous years is the high per­cent­age of oil accu­mu­la­tion in trans­formed fruits. Some grow­ers esti­mate they have oil accu­mu­la­tion that is 20 or 30 times above aver­age, with local media report­ing record-break­ing fig­ures each day.


In north­ern Dalmatia, an olive grower from Čista Velika received 98 liters of oil from his 322 kilo­grams of olives processed at the Sveti Ivan mill in Vodice near Šibenik.

Records in other oil mills fol­lowed, with the largest com­ing in Supetar on the island of Brač. The English cou­ple Tim Batson James and his wife, Paula, from Bristol, recorded oil accu­mu­la­tion of 34.6 per­cent from their olive grove on Brač.

Ivan Arnerić, the owner of the oil mill in Supetar, said he believes the high oil accu­mu­la­tion per­cent­ages are due to a large num­ber of sunny days, high tem­per­a­tures and dry spells in June and July.

He added that late August rain also helped but was fol­lowed by a long drought, affect­ing all of Dalmatia.

As a result, the fruits were left with­out the usual amount of water, mak­ing them smaller and lighter, so pro­cess­ing is cheaper for olive grow­ers.

With fewer kilo­grams of olives, grow­ers are receiv­ing much more oil than in pre­vi­ous years. However, experts pointed out that high yields do not indi­cate that the oil is of bet­ter qual­ity.

The qual­ity of such oils is not homo­ge­neous. Polyphenols, bit­ter­ness and spici­ness have increased, but aro­mas are miss­ing,” Druzetić said.

Ivica Vlatković, an award-win­ning pro­ducer and pres­i­dent of the Association of Zadar County Olive Growers, also agrees with this analy­sis.

High pro­duc­tiv­ity in pro­cess­ing is a direct con­se­quence of the dry olives this year,” he said.

Vlatković added that the oils would be of high qual­ity in terms of bit­ter­ness and spici­ness, but they would still lack fruiti­ness. This is espe­cially true for oils from non-irri­gated olive groves.

When the olives are too dry, millers add water, which dis­solves some phe­no­lic com­pounds, which end up in the olive pomace. As a result, an unpleas­ant bit­ter­ness pre­vails in these oils with­out the pleas­ant aro­mas.

Vlatković and Druzetić also agree that exces­sive fer­til­ity in the dry sea­son can result in lower fruit­ing in the fol­low­ing year. The drought has resulted in the lower growth of new branches, which could decrease olive yields next year.

If there is no mois­ture in the air and soil, the olive tree can hardly achieve a good yield and pre­pare for high fer­til­ity the next year,” Vlatković said.

He pointed out that most olive vari­eties are sen­si­tive to uneven yields from year to year, which is caused by an exces­sive har­vest in one year that depletes the olive tree’s resources and pre­vents the growth of a suf­fi­cient num­ber of new shoots in the fol­low­ing year. The result is a reduced num­ber of flow­ers and fruits and a reduced yield.

However, research has demon­strated that uneven annual yield can be reduced by irri­ga­tion. Irrigating in the early part of the year pro­motes the growth of shoots and more flow­ers in the fol­low­ing year.

Furthermore, a suf­fi­cient amount of water is needed in the late spring and early sum­mer to deter­mine the num­ber of fruits, which results in a higher yield.

Later doses of irri­ga­tion are used to reg­u­late the size of the fruit, the amount of dry mat­ter and the ripen­ing period,” Vlatković said.

Without irri­ga­tion, there is no suc­cess­ful olive grow­ing. In Croatia, despite sig­nif­i­cant water resources, rivers and lakes, only 2.5 per­cent of the coun­try’s olive groves are irri­gated.


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