Drought Leads to Predictions of Weak Harvest in Argentina

The olive-harvesting season has started in Argentina, but farmers expect low yields and rising costs.
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By Ephantus Mukundi
May. 5, 2022 13:54 UTC

As the olive har­vest gets under­way in Argentina, farm­ers and experts in the sec­tor are acknowl­edg­ing that this year’s crop is hap­pen­ing under very com­plex eco­nomic and agro­nomic cir­cum­stances.

As a result, they pre­dict that the 2022 olive har­vest might drop by as much as 20 per­cent com­pared to 2020/21.

This year, we plan to increase the pro­duc­tion vol­ume a lit­tle due to the increase in demand for oil that we had. So we buy olives.- Diego Calderón, plant man­ager, Almazara S.A.

In addi­tion, there is a pos­si­bil­ity the olives will pro­duce less oil due to a pro­longed drought that inter­fered with the for­ma­tion of oil in the drupe, also known as lipo­ge­n­e­sis.

Argentina, the largest pro­ducer of olives and olive oil in the Western Hemisphere, has been bat­tling dry con­di­tions since the sec­ond half of 2021 due to the effects of an unpre­dictable sum­mer and the La Niña phe­nom­e­non, which tends to cause drought in the region.

See Also:Argentina Receives Its First Geographical Indication for Olive Oil

Argentina has more than 90,000 hectares of olive trees. Most olive groves are found in La Rioja, Mendoza, San Juan and Catamarca. These olive-dense regions were part of the areas that were hard­est hit by the drought.

Meteorologists feared that the coun­try would expe­ri­ence a repeat of the severe drought expe­ri­enced in 2017/18 that resulted in a €3.23 bil­lion eco­nomic losses. Though rains came in March 2022, it was too late as crops such as olives, soy and corn were too far along in their devel­op­ment cycles to ben­e­fit from the rain­fall.

Despite the poor har­vest, olive pro­duc­ers and millers are hope­ful that the good prices of olives and olive oil in part due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pan­demic and the Russian inva­sion of Ukraine.

The lat­ter has led to an acute short­age of sun­flower oil, ris­ing demand for olive oil in Europe and increas­ing domes­tic con­sump­tion, which will cush­ion farm­ers against the impacts of drought and a poor har­vest.

We began the pro­duc­tion of Changlot vari­ety olives this week, and we will con­tinue soon with Arbequina,” Diego Calderón, the plant man­ager at Almazara S.A., told Diario de Cuyo. This year, we plan to increase the pro­duc­tion vol­ume a lit­tle due to the increase in demand for oil that we had. So we buy olives.”

The vari­eties that we work with the most are Arauco and Arbequina and, to a lesser extent Coratina,” he added. In yield, we esti­mate to have some­thing sim­i­lar to 2021 start­ing at 14 per­cent and end­ing at 19 or 20 per­cent.”

The national mar­ket is increas­ing and is the largest con­sumer of our Fontalba brand,” Calderón con­tin­ued. We also work with Mexico for a small part.”

In recent years, the olive sec­tor in Argentina has faced a range of chal­lenges.

In 2021, the Ministry of Agriculture declared a state of emer­gency and an agri­cul­tural dis­as­ter in San Juan, one of the main olive-grow­ing regions of the coun­try, due to floods, frosts, hail and intense rains. The dam­age to olives was so severe that some experts in the sec­tor pre­dicted a dou­ble-digit drop in pro­duc­tion.

Since olive oil pro­duc­tion is labor and energy-inten­sive, the sec­tor also has retracted exten­sively due to the low avail­abil­ity of labor­ers to work in the olive groves. Furthermore, the indus­try has to con­tend with the energy cri­sis due to fuel short­ages also spawned by the Russian inva­sion of Ukraine.


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