Farmers in Australia Look Forward to An Abundant Harvest

Producers cited climatic challenges, supply chain issues and disease as potential challenges but remain optimistic for a bumper harvest.

Harvest at Hunter's Dream Estate in Hillston, New South Wales
By Lisa Anderson
Apr. 5, 2023 13:35 UTC
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Harvest at Hunter's Dream Estate in Hillston, New South Wales

Australian farm­ers have started har­vest­ing, and although some chal­lenges are on the hori­zon, many look for­ward to bet­ter results than in 2022.

Some pro­duc­ers have listed cli­matic chal­lenges, sup­ply chain issues and dis­ease as con­cerns that could pos­si­bly influ­ence the results of this year’s har­vest.

With the very high inter­na­tional cost of olive oil… it means that 2023 is a very attrac­tive year for Australian olive farm­ers.- David Valmorbida, pres­i­dent, Australia Olive Oil Association

Michael Southan, the Australian Olive Association (AOA) chief exec­u­tive, told Olive Oil Times that olive har­vest­ing has started, but not on a large scale yet.

Generally, har­vest­ing will start about two weeks later than usual due to the cool tem­per­a­tures through spring and early sum­mer,” Southan said, so har­vest­ing will start in earnest after Easter [April 9th].”

See Also:2023 Harvest News

The Western Australian and New South Wales har­vests are expected to start around mid-April,” added Jan Jacklin, the Australian Olive Oil Association (AOOA) gen­eral man­ager. The South Australian har­vest is expected to start around mid-May, and the Victorian har­vest will likely start around late April or early May.”

Generally, the fur­ther north and the warmer the con­di­tions, the ear­lier the har­vest starts in Australia,” she said.

According to Jacklin, pro­duc­ers have expe­ri­enced dry autumn weather, allow­ing for a con­trolled ripen­ing period.

She said they received feed­back from pro­duc­ers that fun­gal pres­sure and humid­ity were low, which is good news from a qual­ity per­spec­tive.

Southan said Australian farm­ers antic­i­pate a larger har­vest this year than last year, when many pro­duc­ers reported enter­ing an off-year’ in the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree, with a poten­tial record or near-record crop in the mak­ing.

Labor from back­pack­ers appears plen­ti­ful this year for those who will be hand-pick­ing,” Southan said.

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Professor Robert Spooner-Hart (red cap) with researchers from Portugal in the Hunter Valley earlier this year

All crops are look­ing good at this stage and should be bet­ter than last year,” added David Valmorbida, AOOA pres­i­dent. And the bien­nial nature of olives implies a big­ger har­vest this year.”

Overall, we’re expect­ing a pos­i­tive year with a decent har­vest,” he told Olive Oil Times. With the very high inter­na­tional cost of olive oil due to the short­ages caused by Europe’s drought and Spain’s very small recent har­vest, it means that 2023 is a very attrac­tive year for Australian olive farm­ers.”

However, Valmorbida remains cau­tiously opti­mistic. Unexpected inclement weather could still impact the final yield,” he said. The weather, as always, is the biggest chal­lenge for pro­duc­ers.”

The main chal­lenges will be sourc­ing con­sum­ables such as pack­ag­ing,” Southan added, due to sup­ply chain issues in Australia, which are improv­ing but remain a pos­si­ble prob­lem. And in some areas, get­ting con­tract har­vesters when required [could be a chal­lenge],” he said.

Meanwhile, Sui Tham, co-owner of Cape Schanck Olive Estate on the coun­try’s south­ern Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, told Olive Oil Times they are prepar­ing to start the har­vest in mid-April.

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Cape Schanck Olive Estate

Tham, who co-owns the estate with her hus­band, Stephen, said being on the south­ern­most tip of Australia with tem­per­a­tures gen­er­ally 3 ºC to 5 ºC cooler than the rest of Victoria means they usu­ally har­vest three to four weeks later.

However, she said the weather has been on their side thus far. There was a period of heavy rain dur­ing the flow­er­ing period, then [it was] dry dur­ing the fruit set,” Tham said. The weather has not been exces­sively hot, with peri­ods of rel­a­tively good rain­fall after a dry spell of one to two weeks.”

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Cape Schanck is prepar­ing for a boun­ti­ful har­vest this time around. Looks like the quan­tity is at least twice as good as the pre­vi­ous year,” Tham said. More impor­tantly, the fruit look really healthy, and we are hop­ing that trans­lates to qual­ity oil.”

Irrespective of the amount of fruit we har­vest, the x‑factor each year is how the qual­ity turns out,” she added. The con­sumers are now increas­ingly bet­ter edu­cated, their palate increas­ingly sophis­ti­cated, and the expec­ta­tions increas­ingly higher.”

Our chal­lenge is to be able to meet these demands and also the palate of the judges at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition,” Tham con­tin­ued.

The Cape Schanck team expects the weather to remain on their side. It looks like La Niña influ­ence on the weather here is wan­ing, espe­cially over the last two to three months, and the Bureau of Meteorology is pre­dict­ing a neu­tral out­look.”

Another pro­ducer on the Mornington Peninsula, Taralinga Estate, told Olive Oil Times they expect to har­vest at the begin­ning of May.

We are hop­ing this year’s crop will be big­ger and bet­ter, and we will get a larger quan­tity of oil,” said Christina Hack, the estate’s sales and mar­ket­ing man­ager.

“[There are] no real fore­see­able chal­lenges, but we are hop­ing the oil pro­duces a high polyphe­nol count and a great oil for future gold medals,” she added.

Also from Victoria, Australia’s largest olive oil pro­ducer Cobram Estate – for­merly Boundary Bend – is due to start har­vest­ing in late April.

Sam Beaton, the co-chief exec­u­tive of Cobram Estate, told Olive Oil Times this had been a higher-yield­ing crop year due to the bien­nial bear­ing cycle.

Based on our crop assess­ments, we expect our Australian olive oil pro­duc­tion in 2023 to be sig­nif­i­cantly higher than in 2022,” he said, adding that he did­n’t fore­see any chal­lenges at this stage. Normal har­vest con­di­tions [are] expected.”

Further north, Hunter’s Dream Estate in New South Wales was also prepar­ing to har­vest.

Apart from our con­tin­gency plans to respond to fac­tors like the weather, which is out­side our con­trol, the biggest chal­lenge this year is man­ag­ing increased oper­a­tional costs and sourc­ing skilled work­ers,” busi­ness man­ager Nini Cheong said.

Another pro­ducer, John Symington, who owns Oasis Olives, owns a few olive farms across Australia and expressed con­cern about fun­gal issues.

We are keep­ing a very close eye on vari­eties that are sus­cep­ti­ble to anthrac­nose [a group of fun­gal dis­eases],” he said. The very wet con­di­tions at flow­er­ing may mean that there will be more of a chal­lenge from anthrac­nose than usual.”

We plan to har­vest these vari­eties early to min­i­mize the issue,” he added.


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