French Farmers Get Outside Help to 'Professionalize' EVOO Production

After an improved yet unexceptional olive harvest in France, olive growers are turning to a Spanish company for help.

By Leila Makke
Nov. 27, 2017 09:19 UTC

This year’s olive har­vest in France will amount to an esti­mated 6,000 tons, com­pared to last year’s cat­a­strophic 3,200. This growth nev­er­the­less remains prob­lem­atic for the indus­try. The French olive plan­ta­tion is barely pro­duc­ing 200 liters per hectare yearly.

We can’t rely on the new gen­er­a­tion, they have nei­ther the pas­sion nor the devo­tion of their par­ents and grand­par­ents.- Olivier Nasles, Afidol

France is the fourth con­sumer coun­try of olive oil in the EU and the fifth world­wide with an aver­age annual con­sump­tion of 110,000 tons. Yet, only 4 per­cent of the country’s con­sump­tion comes from the French pro­duc­tion when more than 95 per­cent is imported mostly from Spain, Tunisia, Portugal and Italy.
See Also:Olive Oil Consumption and Exports – Europe
For Afidol’s pres­i­dent, Olivier Nasles, the country’s meth­ods of pro­duc­tion are to be called into ques­tion.” Aging pro­duc­ers, inef­fi­cient pro­duc­tion meth­ods, cli­mate change and a lost know-how hold French pro­duc­ers back from com­pet­ing with their neigh­bors.

As many as 75 per­cent of the 40,000 olive oil pro­duc­ers in the coun­try are fam­ily-owned farms where olive grow­ing is a sec­ondary crop and where the new gen­er­a­tion shows no real inter­est in pur­su­ing agri­cul­tural activ­i­ties. Nasles said.

For Nasles, fam­ily farm­ing should cease to be the back­bone of the French pro­duc­tion. We can’t rely on the new gen­er­a­tion, they have nei­ther the pas­sion nor the devo­tion of their par­ents and grand­par­ents.”

France needs mobil­ity if it wants to win the pro­duc­tiv­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness bat­tle with the emerg­ing mar­kets such as Tunisia and Morocco. Nasles is call­ing on his peers to take con­trol of their agri­cul­tural stag­na­tion and to adapt, par­tic­u­larly to cli­mate change.

After twelve years as head of Afidol, last year Nasles pre­sented a report to the agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity on the vicis­si­tudes of the olive oil mar­ket and pro­posed a reform by launch­ing Club Objectif 1000.’

The ini­tia­tive will be set up in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Todolivo, the Spanish com­pany (from Córdoba) that works to improve the health and pro­duc­tiv­ity of olive groves. The con­sult­ing com­pany accom­pa­nies its clients from the exe­cu­tion of the plan­ta­tion to the press­ing and sale of the oil.

The Club,’ entirely financed by its thirty mem­bers, is a three-year plan that aims at train­ing and pro­fes­sion­al­iz­ing estab­lished olive grow­ers.

The idea is to reach a con­stant and repet­i­tive cul­ti­va­tion by apply­ing Spanish know-how to the tra­di­tional French cul­ture and acquir­ing new irri­ga­tion tech­niques.

The new pro­duc­tion cycle will be under­taken by a French tech­ni­cian under the super­vi­sion of Todolivo. The tar­get is to pro­duce one-thou­sand liters per hectare, per year, on a 300-hectare sur­face.

However crit­i­cal a review of the French olive oil sec­tor may seem, there remains plenty of hope in Nasles’ opin­ion. If some farm­ers were able to pro­duce, on a reg­u­lar basis, 700 to 800 liters per hectare, we will recon­sider and adjust our meth­ods.”

The olive oil sec­tor needs to be pro­fes­sion­al­ized.”


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