Olive Oil Producers in Argentina Beat the Heat, Enjoy Fruitful Harvest

After three below-average harvests, producers in Argentina expect a return to the norm. However, inflation continues to create problems for domestic sales and exports.

(Photo: Solfrut)
By Daniel Dawson
Aug. 2, 2023 17:44 UTC
(Photo: Solfrut)

Despite a scorch­ing sum­mer, olive farm­ers and oil pro­duc­ers across most of Argentina enjoyed a suc­cess­ful har­vest this year after three dis­ap­point­ing sea­sons from 2020 through 2022.

While the final fig­ures from the har­vest will not be known until early September, sev­eral of the country’s largest pro­duc­ers told Olive Oil Times they expected this year’s yield to be far higher than the 2021/22 crop year.

The high infla­tion fig­ure has a com­pletely neg­a­tive impact on the entire olive sup­ply chain… Prices always vary upwards, so you have to be very care­ful both when buy­ing and sell­ing, be it raw mate­ri­als, inputs, ser­vices.- Mario Bustos Carra, gen­eral man­ager, Chamber of Foreign Commerce of Cuyo

According to pro­vi­sional data from the International Olive Council, Argentina pro­duced 33,000 tons of olive oil in 2021/22, although some believe the fig­ure will have to be revised down­ward.

In the north­ern provinces, includ­ing Catamarca, La Rioja and the north of San Juan, there was an aver­age yield; but with an impor­tant increase com­pared to 2022,” Sergio Castello, the coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Pieralisi in Argentina and pro­ducer behind Almaoliva, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

In the mid­dle of Argentina – the south of San Juan and Mendoza – the har­vest was good, a lit­tle above aver­age,” he added. The prob­lem in the east Mendoza was the frost and hail. And in the south region, that is, San Rafael (in the south of Mendoza) and Neuquén, they had a really good har­vest; much more quan­tity and above aver­age.”

In Chilecito, a depart­ment in the province of La Rioja home to many olive groves, pro­duc­ers con­firmed ini­tial pre­dic­tions of a boun­ti­ful har­vest.

We had a much higher cam­paign than 2022,” Guillermo Kemp, the com­mer­cial direc­tor of Solfrut, told Olive Oil Times. This year, we have milled more than 22,000,000 kilo­grams of olives in our new indus­trial plant.”

According to local offi­cials, Kemp added that he expects the com­pany to pro­duce about 3,500 tons of olive oil this year, which may well exceed the total from the province of Mendoza.

An esti­mate, since olives are still being har­vested, would be around 2,200 to 2,500 tons of olive oil,” Mario Bustos Carra, the gen­eral man­ager of the Chamber of Foreign Commerce of Cuyo, told Olive Oil Times. Compared to pre­vi­ous years, it is lower by more than 50 per­cent.”

Argentina’s bumper har­vest comes imme­di­ately after the con­fir­ma­tion of poor har­vests across the Mediterranean basin, with antic­i­pa­tion of pro­duc­tion declines in Spain, Turkey, Portugal and Greece also expected in the 2023/24 crop year.

As a result, some pro­duc­ers in Argentina have the chance to expand exports and bring in much-needed U.S. dol­lars. However, the com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tion sur­round­ing Argentina’s par­al­lel cur­ren­cies means the ben­e­fits are not as great as they seem.

“[Rising olive oil prices due to the poor har­vest in Europe] is a good and bad thing,” Castello said. It is good because olive oil is like a com­mod­ity, so the global price rises, and you get more dol­lars for every ton. However, if the price goes much higher, it is dan­ger­ous because the final price of the bot­tle becomes too expen­sive, and peo­ple stop buy­ing.”

Bustos Carra said pro­duc­ers in Mendoza would likely miss this oppor­tu­nity due to the poor har­vest.

The har­vest results are espe­cially dis­ap­point­ing since this would have been the first year adher­ing pro­duc­ers could bot­tle their extra vir­gin olive oil using the Mendoza PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the European Union.

Prices rise pre­cisely because of the bad European har­vests, but there is not enough pro­duc­tion in our province to take advan­tage of the moment; besides that, the exchange rate delay and infla­tion do not con­tribute to gen­er­at­ing great expec­ta­tions,” Bustos Carra said.

Kemp, from Solfrut, added that Argentine pro­duc­ers who focused on qual­ity would ben­e­fit as the world’s largest olive oil sell­ers in Spain and the United States look south to replen­ish dwin­dling olive oil stocks.


Kemp added that his company’s biggest chal­lenge is revi­tal­iz­ing the domes­tic mar­ket. With regard to sales, the main chal­lenge is to nor­mal­ize prices for the domes­tic mar­ket,” he said.

Normalizing prices in Argentina is a chal­lenge that feels unat­tain­able to many. Annual infla­tion in the coun­try remains stag­ger­ingly high, at 115 per­cent in June. Furthermore, ongo­ing nego­ti­a­tions between the gov­ern­ment and International Monetary Fund to release funds and replen­ish the coun­try’s depleted for­eign cur­rency reserves have resulted in plans to weaken the peso for trade pur­poses.

The high infla­tion fig­ure has a com­pletely neg­a­tive impact on the entire olive sup­ply chain, not only in our province but also at the national level,” Bustos Carra said. Prices always vary upwards, so you have to be very care­ful both when buy­ing and sell­ing, be it raw mate­ri­als, inputs, ser­vices, etc.”

Additionally, the national gov­ern­ment applies a pol­icy that keeps the price of the dol­lar below the infla­tion­ary per­cent­age, which means that the value of the cur­ren­cies that are charged for our exports is well below their real value in our coun­try,” he added.

Julián Clusellas, pres­i­dent of the Valle de la Puerta and a board mem­ber of the Argentine Olive Federation, con­firmed Bustos Carra’s asser­tions. He told Olive Oil Times that a weak­en­ing peso for trade pur­poses would cre­ate fur­ther headaches for exporters, caus­ing the value of exports to fall com­pared to the price of inputs, espe­cially fer­til­izer and labor.

Valle de la Puerta sells olive oil in bulk to large bot­tlers in North America, Europe, and the domes­tic mar­ket. When he sells his olive oil for dol­lars or Euros, he brings those hard cur­ren­cies back to Argentina and must con­vert them to pesos at the offi­cial rate – about 276 pesos per U.S. dol­lar at the time of writ­ing.

However, he said many of his expenses are priced in the par­al­lel dol­lar – the blue dol­lar, col­lo­qui­ally – val­ued at about 515 pesos at the time of writ­ing.

Along with ongo­ing macro­eco­nomic uncer­tainty, Clusellas said increas­ingly hot sum­mers have also cre­ated chal­lenges for some pro­duc­ers. The poor har­vest in the 2021/22 crop year was attrib­uted to scorch­ing sum­mer tem­per­a­tures inter­fer­ing with oil accu­mu­la­tion.

In Catamarca, olive trees are being replaced with Hojiblanca for table olives,” he said. The cli­mate in Catamarca is becom­ing too hot in the sum­mer, and olives are accu­mu­lat­ing very lit­tle oil.”

Clusellas added that other grow­ers in north­ern Argentina are also con­sid­er­ing mak­ing the switch.

Meanwhile, in La Rioja and San Juan, a grad­ual shift from high-den­sity plan­ta­tions to super-high-den­sity plan­ta­tions is tak­ing place as pro­duc­ers seek to reduce costs and improve qual­ity con­sis­tency.

They are cur­rently exper­i­ment­ing with var­i­ous hybrid olive vari­eties bred specif­i­cally for super-high-den­sity plant­ing. Clusellas said the goal is to make the olive har­vest more effi­cient.

This will lower the costs of har­vest­ing, increase the speed of the har­vest and improve the eco­nom­ics of olive grow­ing in Argentina,” he con­cluded.

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