French Producers Celebrate Award-Winning Finish to Bumper Harvest

While France produced 5,500 tons of olive oil in the 2023/24 crop year, farmers and millers in France earned 14 awards at the World Competition.

French producers earned the second-highest amount of World Competition awards in the country's history. (Photo: Mas des Bories)
By Ofeoritse Daibo
Jun. 10, 2024 18:37 UTC
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French producers earned the second-highest amount of World Competition awards in the country's history. (Photo: Mas des Bories)

Olive farm­ers and millers in France com­bined to earn 14 awards at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the county’s sec­ond-high­est total at the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion.

France improved its world rank­ing from 13th place in 2023 to ninth in 2024 despite send­ing six fewer entries this year. Overall, 11 pro­duc­ers com­bined to earn four Gold Awards and ten Silver Awards from 21 entries.

It improves our lever­age when approach­ing poten­tial stock­ists and con­sumers and rep­re­sents a vote of con­fi­dence from trusted sources, enabling us to stand out from com­peti­tors.- Louisa Sherman, co-owner, Domaine de Gerbaud

News of the awards capped off a bumper har­vest in France. According to European Commission data, the coun­try pro­duced 5,500 tons of olive oil in the 2023/24 crop year, a sig­nif­i­cant increase com­pared to the 3,800 tons pro­duced in 2022/23 and 20 per­cent above the five-year aver­age.

While farm­ers remain com­mit­ted to cul­ti­vat­ing local vari­eties, ini­tia­tives are being imple­mented to sig­nif­i­cantly boost pro­duc­tion with com­mer­cial vari­eties.

See Also:The best extra vir­gin olive oils in France

Despite the boun­ti­ful and award-win­ning fin­ish to the har­vest, French pro­duc­ers cited cli­mate change as a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge, with some groves hav­ing abun­dant yields and oth­ers hav­ing very low olive pro­duc­tion.

Regardless of the yield, the coun­try’s over­all qual­ity of extra vir­gin olive oils is high this year due to timely rain and a dry and sunny sum­mer.

Among this year’s win­ners was Mas des Bories. The pro­duc­ers, which focus on grow­ing and milling native vari­eties, reacted with immense joy” upon hear­ing about their Gold Award for an Aglandau mono­va­ri­etal and Silver Award for a Protected Designation of Origin-cer­ti­fied blend.

the-best-olive-oils-competitions-production-europe-french-producers-celebrate-awardwinning-finish-to-bumper-harvest-olive-oil-times

Claire De Fina Coutin shows visitors around her company’s olive groves in Salon-de-Provence. (Photo: Mas des Bories)

Owner Claire De Fina Coutin attrib­uted their suc­cess to their grove’s loca­tion in Salon-de-Provence.

Due to our dry and sunny micro-cli­mate, we didn’t suf­fer from the sum­mer heat,” she said in a February 2024 inter­view. We were pro­tected by our loca­tion in the val­ley with trees. And we use irri­ga­tion, too, so that helps. But we do not need to irri­gate through­out the year; we irri­gate only for short peri­ods.”

As for the har­vest itself, there was not much dif­fer­ence between this year and last year,” she added. I would say that this year’s har­vest was per­haps ten to 15 per­cent more than last year’s.”

In con­trast, Domaine de Gerbaud, which earned a Gold Award for an organic PDO blend, had to take extra pre­cau­tions to pro­tect from the cli­matic impacts.

the-best-olive-oils-competitions-production-europe-french-producers-celebrate-awardwinning-finish-to-bumper-harvest-olive-oil-times

Domaine de Gerbaud celebrated a winning return to the 2024 NYIOOC. (Photo: Domaine de Gerbaud)

This is amaz­ing. We can’t stop grin­ning,” said co-owner Louisa Sherman. Due to the Covid-19 pan­demic, we took a break from com­pe­ti­tions and worked on some major tree restruc­tur­ing while our daugh­ter led a rebrand­ing project. We are so excited to win this Gold Award after being away for a few years.”

Sherman cited the impact of cli­mate change and infla­tion as the com­pa­ny’s main chal­lenges in pro­duc­ing award-win­ning qual­ity olive oil.

Climate change is our biggest chal­lenge,” she said. During the past five years, we have suf­fered increas­ing drought and intense peri­ods of heat, with the last two years being the worst.”

Our sec­ond sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem is that pro­duc­tion costs keep increas­ing, par­tic­u­larly French labor costs,” Sherman added. Despite this, the mar­ket resists higher, fairer prices for pro­duc­ers and con­sumers are still largely igno­rant about the ben­e­fits (taste and health) of high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Still, she said that win­ning inter­na­tional qual­ity awards is highly encour­ag­ing and helps increase the aware­ness of food indus­try pro­fes­sion­als and the gen­eral pub­lic about high-qual­ity pro­duc­ers.

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It improves our lever­age when approach­ing poten­tial stock­ists and con­sumers and rep­re­sents a vote of con­fi­dence from trusted sources, enabling us to stand out from com­peti­tors,” Sherman said. Of course, it is also hugely grat­i­fy­ing for the team to win in an inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion after putting in so much hard work dur­ing the year.”

France is a com­par­a­tively minor olive oil pro­ducer, yet it holds the sev­enth posi­tion glob­ally regard­ing con­sump­tion. Nevertheless, its pro­duc­ers encounter obsta­cles in effec­tively adjust­ing to the chal­lenges posed by pro­duc­tion.

the-best-olive-oils-competitions-production-europe-french-producers-celebrate-awardwinning-finish-to-bumper-harvest-olive-oil-times

Owner Aurélie Sirvent (right) celebrated a fourth straight year of success at the World Competition (Photo: Moulin de la Coquille)

Situated between Montpellier and Marseille, fourth-time win­ner Moulin de la Coquille earned a Silver Award for a medium-inten­sity blend.

Owner Aurelie Sirvent said the company’s main chal­lenge this year was milling with new equip­ment.

This year, the major chal­lenge was the change in our pro­duc­tion chain,” she said. We had to adapt to our new work­ing tool. Unfortunately, it’s not like a race car we can test before the com­pe­ti­tion.”

See Also:A Family Tradition Takes Root at Moulin de la Coquille

We have to test this tool live on our pro­duc­tion, and it’s bet­ter not to make any mis­takes to avoid los­ing the hard work of an entire year,” she added.

According to Sirvent, win­ning equates to gain­ing vis­i­bil­ity. It also means know­ing the opin­ion of juries com­posed of experts who once again reward our work and exper­tise,” she said.

Ten of France’s 11 awards went to pro­duc­ers in the south, where most of the country’s extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion is cen­tered.

However, Domaine Petraghje put the Mediterranean island of Corsica on the world olive oil map, win­ning a Silver Award for a del­i­cate Ghjermana di Casinca.

Owner Roger Philippe Maurizi hailed the award as the per­fect end­ing to an excel­lent har­vest in which the com­pany pro­duced 4,000 liters of extra vir­gin olive oil from the endemic olie vari­ety.

We are very happy with this award,” Maurizi said. Winning shows our cus­tomers that our olive oil is high-qual­ity, and for us, it is proof that we are doing good work in our olive grove.”


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