Drought and Ill-Timed Rain Lead to Poor Harvest in Uruguay

Officials estimate production will be 72 percent below the five-year average, after an historic drought and a rainy harvest.
Production in Uruguay is estimated to drop to less than 500 tons in the 2023/24 crop year. (Photo: Sabía)
By Daniel Dawson
Jul. 1, 2024 16:23 UTC

Two years of his­toric drought fol­lowed by rain dur­ing the har­vest and the olive tree’s nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle have resulted in a sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tion decline in the small South American coun­try of Uruguay.

Gonzalo Aguirre, the award-win­ning pro­ducer of Olivares de Santa Laura and pres­i­dent of the Uruguayan Olive Association (Asolur), esti­mated that pro­duc­tion would fall to 500,000 liters (458 tons) of olive oil in 2024, a 78 per­cent decrease com­pared to last year’s bumper har­vest and 72 per­cent below the five-year aver­age.

There was a very, very low har­vest,” he said. It was par­tially due to the drought last year, which did not allow the shoots to be ready to grow olives. Also, the har­vest was neg­a­tively influ­enced for some pro­duc­ers because it rained a lot, and they lost olives.”

See Also:2024 Harvest Updates

Laura Da Trindade, the direc­tor of Sabía in the south­east­ern inland depart­ment of Lavalleja, con­firmed that this year’s har­vest was sig­nif­i­cantly below the pre­vi­ous one.

Our har­vest was bad com­pared to last year but not as bad as the coun­try in gen­eral,” she said. We har­vested 75 per­cent of the fruit com­pared to the pre­vi­ous two years, which were good har­vests.”

The biggest prob­lem was the oil accu­mu­la­tion, which dropped sig­nif­i­cantly com­pared to pre­vi­ous years,” Da Trindade added. We were at an aver­age of ten per­cent when we were at 13 to 14 per­cent pre­vi­ously. A sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence was seen in the amount of oil obtained.”

With pro­duc­tion declin­ing from 11 tons in 2023 to seven tons in 2024, Da Trindade said one of the company’s main chal­lenges was low­er­ing pro­duc­tion costs to mit­i­gate the impacts of the lower yield.

This year’s chal­lenges were to try to lower har­vest costs because we knew it would be bad and also that there would be less demand for ser­vices in our oil mill due to the lack of fruit in the region,” she said. This greatly increased our pro­duc­tion costs and was one of the rea­sons why this year we chose to mech­a­nize the har­vest with umbrel­las to reduce costs and har­vest time.”

While most pro­duc­ers expe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cantly lower yields, María Vittoria, the direc­tor of Pique Roto in the neigh­bor­ing depart­ment of Florida, said her pro­duc­tion increased as recently planted trees matured.


Pique Roto in the south-central department of Florida is among the few producers who saw a production increase this year. (Photo: Pique Roto)

For us, the har­vest in 2024 was very good, reach­ing 190 tons of olives har­vested and milled, with 9,000 trees,” she said. We were pos­si­bly the plan­ta­tion that obtained… the high­est oil pro­duc­tion per hectare: an aver­age of 768 kilo­grams per hectare, with the excel­lence of Frantoio, which gave us 1,417 kilo­grams of oil per hectare.”

We esti­mate that pro­duc­tion will reach 25 tons, 212 per­cent more than last year,” Vittoria added. Production was greatly impacted by the sig­nif­i­cant drought that affected the region and the depart­ment of Florida in par­tic­u­lar, where there were eight months with­out rain.”

She said the com­pa­ny’s main chal­lenges are ensur­ing the milling process is done quickly and well to achieve high qual­ity and enrich­ing the soil with prun­ing waste and olive pomace to avoid using chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers.

The sig­nif­i­cant decline in pro­duc­tion in Uruguay comes after a poor har­vest in the Northern Hemisphere and lower crops in Argentina, Chile and Peru. As a result, con­sumers in Uruguay have seen sig­nif­i­cant price rises through­out 2024.

Prices are already increas­ing because the large pro­duc­ers in the Mediterranean set the prices,” Aguirre said. The inter­na­tional bulk busi­ness in Uruguay this year increased more than ever. There was a con­sid­er­able increase of 30 to 40 per­cent at retail.”

Prices in Uruguay have already risen, and I believe they will con­tinue to rise due to lack of sup­ply and high demand,” Da Trindade added. We had to [raise our prices] quite a bit this year.”

Even in good years, about half of Uruguay’s olive oil sup­ply comes from Argentina, Italy and Spain. As a result, Vittoria said domes­tic olive oil prices fol­low a dif­fer­ent dynamic than those of imported oils.


The price of local pro­duc­tion and sale can be set rel­a­tively autonomously and punc­tu­ally, tak­ing qual­ity as a ref­er­ence,” she said.

However, Aguirre expects import prices to remain steady in the short term and drop by the begin­ning of 2025 when olive oils from the lat­est Spanish and Italian har­vests begin to arrive.

Next year, if there is a good har­vest in the Mediterranean and the region, I believe that prices may even go down,” he said.

Instead of wor­ry­ing too much about prices, Aguirre is more pre­oc­cu­pied with the International Olive Council (IOC) bring­ing the Mario Solinas Awards to Uruguay in August. This is the first time the com­pe­ti­tion has been held in the Southern Hemisphere.


The poor harvest in Uruguay coincides with its hosting of the Mario Solinas Awards (Photo: Sabía)

Given the mea­ger har­vest and pres­sure for the event to suc­ceed, he wor­ries that the tim­ing is unfor­tu­nate.

It has been a bad har­vest, and although enter­ing Mario Salinas does not cost money, it has quan­tity require­ments, and pro­duc­ers must use a notary to seal the sam­ples,” he said.

The IOC recently announced changes to its rules to facil­i­tate the entrance of more small pro­duc­ers in the Southern Hemisphere. The amount of olive oil each pro­ducer must save from the batch has been low­ered from 4,000 to 1,000 liters.

Aguirre, who has been heav­ily involved in the process, hopes for a high turnout from Uruguay and the other seven pro­duc­ing coun­tries in the Southern Hemisphere.

He con­firmed that his com­pany would send in sam­ples, adding that he did not know how many sam­ples the judg­ing panel at the Uruguayan Technical Laboratory had already received. Da Trindade and Vittoria also said they would par­tic­i­pate.

Samples must arrive by August 15th. Judging will take place in mid-September, with the results announced ahead of the sec­ond annual Latin American Olive Oil Conference, which will be held in Montevideo in November.

I think it is impor­tant that [the com­pe­ti­tion becomes an annual event in Argentina and Uruguay] and that the world con­sid­ers the qual­ity of Southern Hemisphere pro­duc­ers because, in gen­eral, there is a lot of com­mit­ment to qual­ity here,” Aguirre said.


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