After Initial Optimism, Mixed Results for Australian Producers

Torrential rain resulted in no harvests for some regions of Australia, while others enjoyed similar yields to last year’s record-highs.

(Photo: Cobram Estate)
By Lisa Anderson
Oct. 12, 2022 13:03 UTC
(Photo: Cobram Estate)

When Australian olive farm­ers started har­vest­ing, they expected an excel­lent yield due to the expan­sion of the coun­try’s groves and good weather. However, pro­duc­tion was sig­nif­i­cantly down from last year.

The 2022 crop looks to be around 70 per­cent of last year’s crop,” Michael Southan, the chief exec­u­tive of the Australian Olive Association (AOA), told Olive Oil Times. The har­vest this year was an off year,’ and results were mixed.”

Although 2022 was going to be an off year,’ it was a very good down sea­son with 53 per­cent more oil pro­duced than in the pre­vi­ous com­pa­ra­ble year in 2020.- Leandro Ravetti, co-CEO, Boundary Bend

He said the AOA found some groves had their best yields while oth­ers had very lit­tle or no olives to har­vest.

The groves that per­formed well are show­ing the ben­e­fits of tree regen­er­a­tion and prun­ing,” he said, while the groves that did not per­form well gen­er­ally suf­fered from insect dam­age or were just too wet to har­vest with machines.”

See Also:2022 Harvest Updates

Therefore, they had to hand­pick, result­ing in much lower yields as not all trees were picked,” Southan added. Overall, the year has been bet­ter than we antic­i­pated, as the drop from last year’s record crop was not as great as we have expe­ri­enced in past off’ years.’ ”

According to the Australian Olive Oil Association (AOOA), there is no offi­cial track­ing of local olive oil pro­duc­tion vol­umes and far­m­gate sales. Still, the orga­ni­za­tion esti­mates the 2022 har­vest will yield between 14 and 15 mil­lion liters of olive oil, com­pared to last year’s bumper crop of 20 to 22 mil­lion liters. This year’s yield is around 50 per­cent higher than in 2020.

The AOOA attrib­uted the lower yield to the bien­nial cycle of olive bear­ing. David Valmorbida, the pres­i­dent of the AOOA, said pro­duc­ers had mixed results across the coun­try, depend­ing on weather con­di­tions.

australia-and-new-zealand-production-business-after-initial-optimism-mixed-results-for-australian-producers-olive-oil-times

(Photo: Cobram Estate)

The Hunter Valley was mas­sively impacted by floods, which came one after the other, cre­at­ing unfa­vor­able con­di­tions at the time of flow­er­ing, and the trees did­n’t get fruit,” Amanda Bailey, an AOOA com­mit­tee mem­ber, told Olive Oil Times.

She said other parts of New South Wales had bet­ter results, and parts of Western Australia and Tasmania had out­stand­ing yields.

Labor short­ages were def­i­nitely an issue which impacted the har­vest,” she said. Many pro­duc­ers could not get the staff needed, and con­trac­tor ser­vices were also stretched. The short­age of labor was not iso­lated to the olive har­vest. It con­tin­ues to be an enor­mous con­cern across the entire agri­cul­tural sec­tor in Australia.”

The AOOA said a short­age of bot­tles and tin cans, together with ris­ing costs of fuel, elec­tric­ity, fer­til­izer and pack­ag­ing, were other issues that affected olive oil pro­duc­ers.

Despite these chal­lenges, Cockatoo Grove in Victoria had a good har­vest this year.

australia-and-new-zealand-production-business-after-initial-optimism-mixed-results-for-australian-producers-olive-oil-times

Midnight harvesting at Cockatoo Grove

Coming off last sea­son’s record high, we were pleas­antly sur­prised with this year’s har­vest vol­umes, achiev­ing an above aver­age yield,” co-owner Andrea Cook told Olive Oil Times. Our 2021 har­vest was by far our high­est yield, and with the bien­nial nature of olive crop­ping, we were expect­ing our vol­umes this year to be lower than we pro­duced.”

We were luck­ier than other groves close to us and man­aged to har­vest in good time,” she added. Thankfully, we were spared from dam­aged fruit, and our grove remained acces­si­ble, even after the rain.”

However, we have been chal­lenged this year with the ris­ing cost of freight plus staff short­ages, both in our own com­pany and with our sup­pli­ers,” Cook con­tin­ued. We have seen delays in pro­duc­tion, sup­ply of raw mate­ri­als and freight effi­cien­cies. Overall, we are for­tu­nate to have been spared from major impacts of sup­ply short­ages.”

Boundary Bend, Australia’s largest olive oil pro­ducer which is rebrand­ing to Cobram Estate, also yielded a pos­i­tive result this year.

australia-and-new-zealand-production-business-after-initial-optimism-mixed-results-for-australian-producers-olive-oil-times

(Photo: Cobram Estate)

We are very happy with the sea­son we had and the results we obtained; par­tic­u­larly when con­sid­er­ing the chal­lenges of a tight labor mar­ket, ongo­ing Covid out­breaks, ris­ing costs and above aver­age rain,” co-chief exec­u­tive and chief oil maker Leandro Ravetti told Olive Oil Times.

Although 2022 was going to be an off year,’ it was a very good down sea­son with 53 per­cent more oil pro­duced than in the pre­vi­ous com­pa­ra­ble year in 2020,” he added. Our over­all two-year rolling aver­age yields of mature groves increased by 16 per­cent when com­par­ing the 2017 and 2018 sea­sons ver­sus the 2021 and 2022 sea­sons.”

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The 2022 har­vest was a chal­leng­ing one with over 150 mil­lime­ters of accu­mu­lated rain,” Ravetti con­tin­ued. That is 152 per­cent higher than aver­age rain­fall for the period and over 37 rainy days in the 60-day har­vest win­dow, which is 69 per­cent more rainy days than aver­age.”

We have also seen input cost pres­sure across our entire busi­ness, par­tic­u­larly around fer­til­iz­ers, fuel, elec­tric­ity, wages, and freight,” he added. Fortunately, in the con­text of our oper­a­tions, most of those higher costs were par­tially off­set by low water prices.”

Ravetti described 2022 as unique. We expe­ri­enced a very favor­able wet win­ter, fol­lowed by a mod­er­ate sum­mer with above aver­age rain­fall dur­ing the oil accu­mu­la­tion process,” he said. This sit­u­a­tion led to excel­lent flesh-to-pit ratios, boost­ing the bal­ance and fruity fla­vors of our oils.”

Elsewhere in Victoria, Cape Schanck Olive Estate also enjoyed a favor­able har­vest.

australia-and-new-zealand-production-business-after-initial-optimism-mixed-results-for-australian-producers-olive-oil-times

(Photo: Cape Schanck Olive Estate)

It was such a relief to have the Covid restric­tions behind us,” co-owner Sui Tham told Olive Oil Times. We were able to wel­come vis­i­tors and help from the locals, friends and rel­a­tives. It was fun again.”

She said the har­vest started about two weeks later than usual fol­low­ing wet weather. Autumn was quite wet, and we had to be more care­ful with the mechan­i­cal har­vester to avoid dam­age to the trees,” she said.

Tham added that they were con­cerned that more of the fruit from the trees, which were pruned to be tall and wide, would fall out­side of the catch­ing net with the mechan­i­cal har­vester. But despite heavy prun­ing, the fruit yield was con­sis­tent with the pre­vi­ous two years,” she said.

Our Picholine, Picual and Coratina vari­eties did well this year,” Tham added. Our Frantoio and Leccino were con­sis­tent with the pre­vi­ous years. Overall the oils were milder than pre­vi­ous years but with a bal­anced palate, which should be attrac­tive to many.”

Tham said they were spared the tor­ren­tial rains that fell for a pro­longed period in New South Wales and Queensland, which caused wide­spread dam­age and impacted road and rail trans­port.

She explained these tor­ren­tial rains affected the coun­try’s pri­mary pro­duc­ers, which resulted in increased prices for their prod­ucts.

Together with the geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions in Europe rais­ing the costs of fuel and gas, this resulted in a tsunami of infla­tion­ary pres­sures,” she said. Certainly, this has influ­enced the costs of run­ning the farm. Labor short­ages as a result of Covid restric­tions have not helped.”

Tham said the heavy rain did not impact Cape Schanck’s har­vest because their farm is in a sandy area, but the fre­quent mois­ture in sum­mer increased dis­ease pres­sure on their trees, par­tic­u­larly caus­ing sooty mold.

We hear Spain is going through a par­tic­u­larly dry and hot sum­mer, sig­nif­i­cantly affect­ing their yield,” she con­cluded. We will have to pre­pare our irri­ga­tion well this year in antic­i­pa­tion of unpre­dictable extreme weather.”


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