Olive Oil Producers in Chile Hail a Record Yield

Chile produced 25,500 tons of olive oil in the 2020/21 crop year. But despite the bumper crop, exports fell substantially.

Photo: Olivos del Sur
Oct. 26, 2021
By Jasmina Nevada
Photo: Olivos del Sur

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After a promis­ing start to the 2021 har­vest, olive oil pro­duc­ers in Chile expect a record-break­ing yield.

According to data pro­vided by ChileOliva, the national olive oil pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, South America’s sec­ond-largest pro­ducer yielded 25,500 tons of olive oil, a 13-per­cent increase com­pared with 2020.

We came from two very crit­i­cal years due to the drought that affects us, but this year we had more water and we man­aged to obtain fruit with bet­ter cal­iber.- José Manuel Reyes, com­mer­i­cal man­ager, Agrícola Pobeña

Additionally, pro­duc­tion may con­tinue to grow in Chile as more olive trees are planted. There are cur­rently 22,152 hectares of olive groves in the coun­try. ChileOliva said the sur­face area of olives planted will increase, but this is highly depen­dent on water avail­abil­ity.

See Also: 2021 Harvest Updates

Ismael Heiremans, the agro-indus­trial man­ager, of Olivos del Sur, one of the country’s largest pro­duc­ers, told Olive Oil Times that the har­vest was slow but steady, highly con­di­tioned by rules intro­duced to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pan­demic.

Each year we aim to com­plete the har­vest of 1,450 hectares within the expected times, ensur­ing the qual­ity and safety of the final prod­uct, obtain­ing the chem­i­cal and organolep­tic qual­i­ties that our prod­uct requires,” he said. Procedures were strict and rig­or­ously adhered to with the com­plex­i­ties pre­sented by Covid-19.”

The fairly new work­ing con­di­tions and the avail­abil­ity of work­ers for man­ual har­vest­ing played a crit­i­cal role in deter­min­ing how the har­vest pro­gressed. After 66 days, Olivos del Sur pro­duced 2,815,000 liters of extra vir­gin olive oil.

Once the olives had been har­vested and trans­formed, the next step for the pro­ducer was to bot­tle and label them for export.

We ship our oil to more than 12 coun­tries world­wide, annu­ally,” Claudio Lovazzano, the company’s mar­ket­ing man­ager, told Olive Oil Times. Brazil, the U.S. and Canada are the main des­ti­na­tions. It’s hard work to get our prod­uct in per­fect con­di­tion for our cus­tomers.”

According to ChileOliva, olive oil exports have not fared as well as pro­duc­tion dur­ing the pan­demic. The asso­ci­a­tion reported a 43-per­cent decrease in exports due to chal­lenges asso­ci­ated with logis­tics, plan­ning and trans­porta­tion dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­demic.

Despite the set­back to exports, Chile remains a com­pet­i­tive olive oil exporter to the United States, Brazil, Germany and Mexico, ChileOliva added.

Situated about 50 kilo­me­ters south of Olivos del Sur, Fernando Carrasco, the gen­eral man­ager of Olivos Ruta del Sol, har­vested a new plan­ta­tion of Arbequina and Arbosana olives.

Our main chal­lenge this year is devel­op­ing a new team based in the com­mune of Pumanque, Colchagua Valley, where our entire pro­duc­tion oper­a­tion has been since 2020,” he told Olive Oil Times.

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Photo: Agrícola Pobeña

Carrasco added that the com­pany had imple­mented new remote main­te­nance sys­tems for the pro­duc­tion line, which enables his team to oper­ate two sets of har­vest­ing equip­ment simul­ta­ne­ously.

In turn, this increased the vol­ume of olives arriv­ing at the mill and ensures the high qual­ity of olive oil pro­duced by Olivos Ruta del Sol, he added.

Carrasco said that this year had been a more inten­sive one for the com­pany. He set a har­vest end date of June 25 to obtain greener oils and pro­tect the prod­uct from frost, which can dam­age olive oil qual­ity if the olives are left unhar­vested too late into the sea­son. (June is the begin­ning of the win­ter in the Southern Hemisphere.)

According to Carrasco, Olivos Ruta del Sol pro­duced 410,000 liters of olive oil this year, which was 17-per­cent higher than he expected.

Also located in Chile’s fer­tile cen­tral val­ley, back to the north of Olivos Ruta del Sol, the pro­duc­ers behind Agrícola Pobeña also enjoyed a fruit­ful har­vest. However, it was one that started later than antic­i­pated.

This year every­thing was delayed for weather rea­sons, with rare rain at the end of January, and February with few sunny days and with days of fog, which delayed every­thing by a cou­ple of weeks,” José Manuel Reyes, the company’s com­mer­cial man­ager, told Olive Oil Times.

We came from two very crit­i­cal years due to the drought that affects us, but this year we had more water and we man­aged to obtain fruit with bet­ter cal­iber,” he added. This allowed us to obtain more kilo­grams of fruit.”

Agrícola Pobeña exports the major­ity of the olive oil pro­duced dur­ing the har­vest, along with sup­ply­ing the local mar­ket. As a result, one of the company’s key chal­lenges is work­ing on dis­tri­b­u­tion year-round.

Once the har­vest is over, the whole team begins to work with a view to the 2022 har­vest, in antic­i­pa­tion of obtain­ing good olive oil next sea­son,” Manuel Reyes said. Overall, we are happy with the work our whole team has done through­out the year, which is reflected in the olive oils pro­duced this year.”

The year started with Manuel Reyes antic­i­pat­ing a decrease of 15-per­cent com­pared with last year. However, despite the slow start, the com­pany pro­duced more olive oil than antic­i­pated.

This is the reflec­tion of hav­ing been able to irri­gate in a good way, which leaves us very happy since, despite the greater vol­ume, the oils kept intact all their qual­i­ties and inten­si­ties,” he con­cluded.


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