Initial Estimates Forecast 1M Tons of Olive Oil Production in Spain

The ongoing drought and scorching summer temperatures are being blamed for the significant production decrease across Spain.

Andalusia, Spain
By Paolo DeAndreis
Aug. 26, 2022 12:46 UTC
Andalusia, Spain

Spanish olive grow­ers have expressed low expec­ta­tions for the com­ing har­vest.

Plagued by a pro­longed and severe drought and a series of heat­waves, agri­cul­ture in Spain is fac­ing one of the most chal­leng­ing moments in recent years.

The heat­waves are always a prob­lem for any agri­cul­tural crop, but we have to get used to them because the next sum­mers will be the same or even worse.- Carlos Oliva, sales man­ager, Finca La Barca

Some experts believe that olive yields in the world’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing nation will also sig­nif­i­cantly drop.

The Minister of Agriculture Luis Planas pub­licly warned that olive pro­duc­tion would slow down. Kyle Holland, an ana­lyst at the research group Mintec, pre­dicted a 25 to 30-per­cent yield reduc­tion is highly prob­a­ble.

See Also:2022 Harvest Updates

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

The Association of Young Farmers and Ranchers (Asaja) in Andalusia esti­mates that Spain will pro­duce 1 mil­lion tons of olive oil in the cur­rent crop year.

However, Primitivo Fernández, the direc­tor of the National Association of Industrial Packers and Refiners of Edible Oils, said the coun­try has more than 500,000 tons in its stocks, which will meet demand on the national and inter­na­tional mar­kets.

Asaja said the drought has reduced the resilience of non-irri­gated groves to the effects of the heat­waves. Furthermore, the reduced amount of water for irri­ga­tion also was unable to meet the needs of the irri­gated olive groves.

Decreasing water avail­abil­ity for irri­ga­tion will weigh on the final pro­duc­tion fig­ures as nearly 30 per­cent of the country’s olive groves are irri­gated, accord­ing to esti­mates from Juan Vilar Strategic Consultants.

Most irri­gated groves are cul­ti­vated under high-den­sity (inten­sive) and super-high-den­sity (super-inten­sive) regimes. While rep­re­sent­ing about one-third of the total olive grow­ing sur­face area, irri­gated groves con­sti­tute a dis­pro­por­tion­ately large amount of total olive oil pro­duc­tion in Spain.

The chal­leng­ing cli­mate is hit­ting all olive-grow­ing regions, espe­cially Andalusia. The south­ern autonomous com­mu­nity rep­re­sents 75 per­cent of Spanish olive pro­duc­tion and is bear­ing the brunt of the impacts of cli­mate change.

Andalusian olive oil pro­duc­tion by value has steadily increased in recent years, fuel­ing regional devel­op­ment. However, it is heav­ily reliant on water avail­abil­ity.

For exam­ple, La Vinuela, a reser­voir in Málaga, is now so low author­i­ties esti­mate it will remain at 11 per­cent of its total capac­ity until the end of August.

With its water reserves at a his­tor­i­cal low, the area is also suf­fer­ing from unprece­dented dry con­di­tions. A recent study pub­lished in Nature Geoscience demon­strates that the Iberian penin­sula has not expe­ri­enced such extreme drought con­di­tions in the last 1,200 years.

According to Holland, the Mintec ana­lyst, Spain’s extreme heat may also pose prob­lems for the qual­ity of the olive har­vest along with the quan­tity.

There are also major wor­ries in the mar­ket regard­ing the qual­ity of the com­ing crop and what pro­por­tion of the crop will make extra vir­gin or vir­gin grades and how much will be classed as lam­pante,” he said. Lampante is a cat­e­gory of olive oil that can­not be safely con­sumed unless it is refined.


Carlos Oliva, the sales man­ager at Finca La Barca, an estate near Toledo in Extremadura, told Olive Oil Times that the cur­rent sea­son is espe­cially chal­leng­ing. Still, they expect the qual­ity to be as high as ever.

The new har­vest will be low in terms of the quan­tity of olives, but we think we will get good qual­ity,” he said. The heat­waves are always a prob­lem for any agri­cul­tural crop, but we have to get used to them because the next sum­mers will be the same or even worse.”

Oliva added that the cur­rent drought empha­sized the need for Spain to develop a mean­ing­ful pub­lic strat­egy to address cli­mate change.

We live in one of the poor­est areas of Spain, and our gov­ern­ment is not doing enough to fight the chal­leng­ing cli­mate,” he said. Our com­pany is work­ing on new approaches to improve the har­vest qual­ity despite the heat­waves.”

We think that the weather will affect all crops, and gov­ern­ments should invest large quan­ti­ties of money now to improve the agri­cul­tural meth­ods of work and fight against cli­mate change,” he added. Every minute counts.”

As the effects of cli­mate change on Spain’s olive groves con­tinue unfurl­ing, researchers are actively work­ing to find new solu­tions for adapt­ing to the new con­di­tions.

In the last few years, we have incor­po­rated the adap­ta­tion to cli­mate change as one of the main objec­tives in our breed­ing work,” said Lorenzo León Moreno, a research direc­tor of plant breed­ing and biotech­nol­ogy at the Andalusian Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training (Ifapa) in Córdoba.

Drought and heat waves have become the most con­se­quen­tial man­i­fes­ta­tions of cli­mate change to affect Spain’s olive grow­ers.

See Also:Rising Olive Oil Exports Fuel Trade Surplus in Andalusia

Moreno said Córdoba, one of the most pro­duc­tive olive-grow­ing provinces in Andalusia, received 386 mil­lime­ters of rain last year, com­pared to 1,269 mil­lime­ters of water evap­o­ra­tion and tran­spi­ra­tion.


Rainfall and temperature data from Córdoba

This hap­pened with only six days of rain­fall higher than 20 mil­lime­ters and no rain since the begin­ning of May,” Moreno told Olive Oil Times. Heat stress also had an impact over the past months, with max­i­mum tem­per­a­tures exceed­ing 40 ºC through­out this period.”

This com­bi­na­tion will sig­nif­i­cantly reduce the com­ing crop in many areas, par­tic­u­larly those under rain­fed pro­duc­tion, where olive is cur­rently just fight­ing for sur­viv­ing,” he added.

Researchers believe the cur­rent highly uncer­tain cli­matic sce­nario does not allow accu­rate pre­dic­tions.

Some sim­u­la­tions for the end of the 21st cen­tury, even fore­cast yield increases due to the pos­i­tive impact of the increase in atmos­pheric CO2 that coun­ter­bal­anced the neg­a­tive impacts of the reduc­tion in rain­fall,” Moreno said.

From our breed­ing per­spec­tive, we can also work on new adap­ta­tion strate­gies in the form of new cul­ti­vars that are more resilient to higher tem­per­a­tures and lower water avail­abil­ity,” he added.

Unfortunately, the infor­ma­tion about the tol­er­ance of dif­fer­ent cul­ti­vars to these fac­tors is quite lim­ited, so more research will be needed in the com­ing years to face these chal­lenges of cli­matic change,” Moreno con­tin­ued.

The Ifapa researcher added how olive phe­nol­ogy and flow­er­ing, above all, are highly affected by cli­matic con­di­tions.

Climatic mod­els fore­cast an advance in the olive flow­er­ing dates in the com­ing years and an increase in the fre­quency of extreme events around the flow­er­ing period,” Moreno said.

This could trans­late into two highly neg­a­tive poten­tial effects for olive pro­duc­tion: the lack of chill­ing hours needed for nor­mal flow­er­ing and the occur­rence of high tem­per­a­tures dur­ing the flow­er­ing hin­der­ing pol­li­na­tion and fruit set,” he added.

Moreno also con­firmed that extra vir­gin olive oil qual­ity is expected to be influ­enced by the chang­ing cli­mate.

He said olive trees grow­ing in coun­tries and regions where tem­per­a­tures are higher than the Mediterranean aver­age dur­ing the lipo­ge­n­e­sis process have already high­lighted the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of some chem­i­cal com­po­nents that deter­mine the qual­ity of extra vir­gin olive oil.”

For instance, for fatty acid com­po­si­tion, a sig­nif­i­cant decrease in the per­cent­age of oleic acid has been observed, which can com­pro­mise the com­mer­cial qual­ity of the obtained olive oils,” Moreno added.

From a breed­ing per­spec­tive, it would there­fore be advis­able to obtain new cul­ti­vars with a high and sta­ble oleic acid con­tent under dif­fer­ent envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, par­tic­u­larly increase in tem­per­a­tures pre­dicted by cli­mate change mod­els,” he con­tin­ued.

The poten­tial effect on other qual­ity com­po­nents is unclear,” he added. Thus, pre­dicted heat and water stress could increase phe­nol con­tent, although more exper­i­men­ta­tion is needed to accu­rately deter­mine the influ­ence of cli­mate change on phe­nol con­tent and com­po­si­tion.”

Ifapa recently started work on a new research project to deter­mine the genetic and envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences on phe­nol con­tent in olive oil.

The influ­ence of high tem­per­a­tures dur­ing har­vest sea­son on the organolep­tic prop­er­ties of the extra vir­gin olive oil is also of seri­ous con­cern in the pre­vi­ous years, pro­mot­ing the devel­op­ment of refrig­er­a­tion sys­tems to be used at indus­trial lev­els.”

Given the cur­rent sce­nario and the grow­ing impacts of cli­mate change on olive farm­ing, Moreno stressed the urgent need for improv­ing the cur­rently avail­able knowl­edge on these impor­tant top­ics, which could only be achieved by sig­nif­i­cantly increased research and devel­op­ment fund­ing in the com­ing years.”

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