The French interprofessional olive oil association said that the final production figure will be somewhere between 3,250 and 3,500 tons, significantly lower than the 5,900-ton yield that was expected at the beginning of the harvest.See more: Olive Oil Production News
“After two consecutive successful harvests [of 6,100 tons in 2017 and 5,300 tons in 2018], the 2019/20 harvest is in sharp decline,” France Olive president Laurent Bélorgey wrote in the introduction of the report.
“The harvest of almost all production areas is declining, with the notable exception of Aude [between Montpellier and the Spanish border], and some have even experienced catastrophic harvests,” he added.
The report attributed the production decline to poor weather conditions throughout the year paired with many producers entering an off-year.
A cold spring led to late flowering and was followed by a dry and hot summer, which damaged some of the olive blossoms. As the harvest began in September, some producers also had their crops damaged by olive fly infestations.
By the middle of the autumn, heavy rains were falling throughout the south of the country, forcing producers to push their harvests back.
While this is shaping up to be the smallest harvest since 2016, some in the sector have said the situation is not all bad. They argue that the low yields will help to deplete the country’s substantial olive oil stocks, which are estimated to be about 100,000 tons.
However, the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on France have led to a decrease in olive oil sales in 2020.
“With sales down this year, we are unlikely to achieve this goal [of depleting olive oil stocks],” Bélorgey wrote. “I will never consider a small harvest as a solution. The profitability of an orchard depends on its productivity and that of a mill on its transformation activity.”