Harvest Outlook Worsens in Spain

Rain is in the forecast for this week, but producers are still expecting what could be the third-lowest yield since records began.

By Paolo DeAndreis
Sep. 13, 2022 14:16 UTC

For the first time in nearly a decade, Spanish olive oil pro­duc­tion could fall below one mil­lion tons.

According to the farm­ing coop­er­a­tives of Andalusia, the coun­try’s most sig­nif­i­cant olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, farm­ers and pro­duc­ers in Spain may yield just 918,000 tons of olive oil in the 2022/23 crop year.

Last year, Spain pro­duced about 1.3 mil­lion tons, accord­ing to the International Olive Council, slightly below the rolling five-year aver­age of 1.37 mil­lion tons.

See Also:2022 Olive Harvest

Farmers, pro­duc­ers and offi­cials have blamed pro­longed sum­mer heat­waves and the unprece­dented drought for the sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tion slump.

In May, record high tem­per­a­tures dur­ing the crit­i­cal olive flow­er­ing period were the first sig­nif­i­cant set­back for pro­duc­ers, reduc­ing yields as blos­soms des­ic­cated on the trees.

Cooperativas Agro-ali­men­ta­rias, Spain’s lead­ing agri­cul­tural coop­er­a­tive, said sky­rock­et­ing energy costs – which have risen 443 per­cent in the last two years – have been another blow for farm­ers and millers.

These costs are expected to hit new highs dur­ing the har­vest sea­son when the entire indus­try reaches its peak energy con­sump­tion.

The coop­er­a­tive added that such costs would rep­re­sent an even heav­ier bur­den for the indus­try as the num­bers of olives set to be har­vested con­tinue to fall, impact­ing grow­ers’ incomes.

They also warned that the fore­cast of 918,000 tons strictly depends on the weather in the next few weeks. The absence of enough rain­fall to replen­ish irri­ga­tion infra­struc­ture could cause pro­duc­tion to fall fur­ther.

An offi­cial esti­mate on the com­ing har­vest in Andalusia is expected soon from the regional gov­ern­ment. Cooperativas Agro-ali­men­ta­rias esti­mated that the autonomous com­mu­nity would pro­duce a max­i­mum of 700,000 tons of olive oil. Last year, Andalusia pro­duced 1.15 mil­lion tons of olive oil.

According to Cristóbal Gallego Martínez, pres­i­dent of the Olive Oil Sectoral Council of Agro-food Cooperatives of Andalusia, this drought is sub­tract­ing olive pro­duc­tion each day that passes.”

Gallego con­firmed that rain­fed groves are prac­ti­cally at zero, with no load of olives.” He added that irri­gated groves, which con­sti­tute more than 33 per­cent of all Spanish groves, will not yield large pro­duc­tions as water avail­abil­ity for irri­ga­tion is cur­rently restricted.

Most of the olive trees have lit­tle water, the olive fruits are wrin­kled, and some are even start­ing to blacken when their nat­ural color now would be green, as this is the time when olive under­goes lipo­ge­n­e­sis, the process dur­ing which the olive begins to trans­form sug­ars into oil,” he said.

We are approach­ing the begin­ning of autumn, and there is lit­tle prospect of short-term rain, which makes us very pes­simistic,” he con­tin­ued, adding that the new cam­paign could become the car­bon copy of the 2014/2015 sea­son,” the sec­ond worst on record.

However, some relief may be on the hori­zon. José Miguel Vinas, a mete­o­rol­o­gist at Meteored, said rain might come in sev­eral regions of the coun­try as Hurricane Danielle approaches Europe’s Atlantic coast.

Despite the poten­tial for rain, offi­cials expect cur­rent lev­els of pro­duc­tion losses to lead to €1.7 bil­lion of losses for the sec­tor.

Considering that 67 per­cent of the pro­duc­tion sec­tor is rep­re­sented by the Andalusian agri-food coop­er­a­tives, the losses in these social econ­omy com­pa­nies would amount to €1.14 bil­lion,” the coop­er­a­tive said.

Along with the antic­i­pated drop in table olive pro­duc­tion, Cooperativas Agro-ali­men­ta­rias said spe­cial mea­sures are needed to sup­port farm­ers. They called on author­i­ties to cut taxes on fuel, elec­tric­ity, fer­til­iz­ers and phy­tosan­i­tary projects.

The coop­er­a­tive also empha­sized the increas­ingly urgent need to upgrade irri­ga­tion tech­nol­ogy and develop a water strat­egy.

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