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More Organic Olive Groves in Andalusia

Oct. 11, 2012
Naomi Tupper

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The area of the Southern Spanish region of Andalusia is famed for its large cov­er­age of olive groves and high lev­els of extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion. However, recent data sug­gests a new trend is emerg­ing in the region, with a 21 per­cent increase of organic olive groves.

The increase, which equates to 1,979 addi­tional hectares, was made up of 810 new eco­log­i­cal olive groves, only 25 per­cent of which were planted in remote slope or moun­tain areas. This con­tin­ues the trend of recent years of a move away from the tra­di­tional moun­tains and steep slopes where it is dif­fi­cult to trans­port machin­ery and the olives.

The increase comes despite some evi­dence sug­gest­ing that organic orchards were less pro­duc­tive than their con­ven­tional coun­ter­parts and that they were often run in a more part-time capac­ity. However, stud­ies also sug­gest that organic olive farm­ers are gen­er­ally younger, more involved in man­age­ment, attend more edu­ca­tional courses and are more com­monly mem­bers of agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tions, per­haps result­ing in a more busi­ness savvy, eco­log­i­cally aware breed of olive farmers.

A study pub­lished by the Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research also sug­gested that organic olive farm­ers believed that, whilst eco­log­i­cal agri­cul­ture was more time con­sum­ing and required greater effort, the returns were supe­rior to con­ven­tional farm­ing meth­ods. This atti­tude may be respon­si­ble, in con­junc­tion with an increas­ing world­wide demand, for the grow­ing num­ber of organic olive groves.

The area of Andalusia has seen a steady increase in eco­log­i­cal olive farm­ing over the past years, with a 37 per­cent increase in organic olive grove area since 2004, pro­vid­ing prod­ucts to meet the grow­ing demand world­wide for organic agri­cul­tural pro­duce. The strong pres­ence of the Andalusian eco­log­i­cal agri­cul­ture sec­tor was rep­re­sented recently at the Third European Market for Organic Products in London this September, where nine organic Andalusian com­pa­nies pro­moted their prod­ucts, includ­ing three olive oil pro­duc­ers from Jaén and Córdoba.

Export to the U.K. pro­vides sub­stan­tial busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties for Andalusian com­pa­nies. Although Britain pro­motes the use of local, regional pro­duce, unre­li­able weather con­di­tions through­out the year means that for­eign pro­duce is a neces­sity, par­tic­u­larly for pro­duce such as olives and their products.

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