Portuguese Producers Highlight Quality as the Cornerstone of Promotional Efforts

After achieving their second-biggest harvest ever, Portuguese producers celebrated impressive results at the World Olive Oil Competition.

Portuguese producers capped off a bumper harvest with 30 awards at the NYIOOC. (Photo: Acushla)
By Daniel Dawson
Jul. 7, 2024 23:34 UTC
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Portuguese producers capped off a bumper harvest with 30 awards at the NYIOOC. (Photo: Acushla)

After cel­e­brat­ing the country’s sec­ond-biggest har­vest in the 2023/24 crop year, pro­duc­ers in Portugal antic­i­pate another good har­vest in 2024/25.

Portuguese olive oil pro­duc­tion reached 157,600 tons, exceed­ing the five-year aver­age by 17 per­cent and fell less than 50,000 tons short of the record-high 206,200 tons recorded in 2021/22.

These awards high­light the excep­tional qual­ity and crafts­man­ship that Portuguese pro­duc­ers bring to the table. They help to ele­vate the rep­u­ta­tion of Portuguese olive oil on the global stage.- Julio Alves, founder, Quinta dos Olmais

Still, the ben­e­fits of a bumper har­vest did not spread evenly across the Iberian coun­try. While Alentejo, the largest olive-grow­ing region by a sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin, enjoyed a fruit­ful yield, pro­duc­ers in the north had below-aver­age har­vests.

Despite their chal­lenges, includ­ing the impacts of the region’s unprece­dented drought from 2022 to 2023, ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs and labor short­ages, Portuguese pro­duc­ers still main­tained award-win­ning qual­ity lev­els.

See Also:The best extra vir­gin olive oil from Portugal

Producers from Europe’s third-largest pro­ducer (over­tak­ing Greece for the first time) com­bined to earn 30 awards from 56 entries at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Among the country’s biggest win­ners was Casa de Santo Amaro, which earned five awards at the com­pe­ti­tion.

These three Gold Awards and two Silver Awards are the result of a huge effort by all the Casa de Santo Amaro team, which works daily to make this recog­ni­tion pos­si­ble,” said co-owner António Pavão. I believe that these awards are very impor­tant for our com­pany and have an impor­tant impact on the noto­ri­ety of all Portuguese olive oils.”

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António Pavão said success at the NYIOOC elevates the profile of Portugal as an olive oil producer on the world stage. (Photo: Casa de Santo Amaro)

Unlike many other pro­duc­ers across the coun­try, Pavão said Casa de Santo Amaro suf­fered a sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tion decline in 2023/24, sim­i­lar to the one suf­fered in 2022/23.

But, with all the effort, ded­i­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the team, we were able to har­vest fresh and healthy olives and imme­di­ately pro­duce these extra vir­gin olive oils of enor­mous qual­ity in our mill,” he said.

There were huge drops in pro­duc­tion in the last two har­vests, and pro­duc­tion costs prac­ti­cally dou­bled because the costs of sub­sidiary mate­ri­als increased a lot fol­low­ing unusual infla­tion,” Pavão added. Unfortunately, this is a gen­eral sit­u­a­tion in all pro­duc­ing coun­tries in Europe.”

Elsewhere across the his­toric regions of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Duoro, pro­duc­ers saw their awards as a happy end­ing to another dif­fi­cult har­vest.

Situated on the bor­der with Spain, Acushla earned a Silver Award for an organic medium-inten­sity blend, the company’s fifth World Competition recog­ni­tion in six years.

We know that we pro­duce one of the best organic olive oils in the world, but receiv­ing this val­i­da­tion from inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized enti­ties is an honor, espe­cially in the American mar­ket,” said Clara Paredes Castro, a senior mar­ket­ing direc­tor.

In addi­tion to ben­e­fit­ing the com­pany, Paredes said these awards add to Portugal’s inter­na­tional pro­file as a high-qual­ity olive oil pro­ducer.

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The mountainous terrain of Trás-os-Montes poses challenges thoughout the harvest, but the terroir is the basis for the region’s unique quality. (Photo: Acushla)

We believe there is a grow­ing per­cep­tion that Portugal is a coun­try where peo­ple eat very well and where high-qual­ity prod­ucts such as olive oil, wine and cheese are pro­duced,” she said.

Unlike Casa de Santo Amaro, Paredes said Acushla expe­ri­enced a slightly bet­ter har­vest in the cur­rent crop year than the pre­vi­ous one, but the yield was still below pre­vi­ous har­vests.

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The qual­ity of the fruit remained very high, but extract­ing oil from it was more chal­leng­ing,” she said.

Paredes cited the mor­phol­ogy of Trás-os-Montes as a con­sis­tent chal­lenge to pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity olive oil.

However, this is also one of the crit­i­cal suc­cess fac­tors for the qual­ity of our olive oil,” she said. Our pro­duc­tion this year was lower than expected because we chose to har­vest the fruit when it was still very green, which low­ers the oil yield but ensures the fresh­ness and qual­ity we desire.”

Other com­mon chal­lenges include cli­mate change, mete­o­ro­log­i­cal phe­nom­ena and the increase in raw mate­r­ial costs due to global events such as war,” Paredes added.

About 85 kilo­me­ters north of Acushla, another peren­nial NYIOOC win­ner also cel­e­brated a Silver Award.

Winning another award at the NYIOOC was an exhil­a­rat­ing expe­ri­ence for us,” said Julio Alves, the founder of Quinta dos Olmais. This recog­ni­tion not only val­i­dates our hard work but also inspires us to strive for excel­lence con­tin­u­ally.”

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Julio Alves says conditions are ripe for another good harvest and hopes the summer weather helps his case. (Photo: Quinta dos Olmais)

Quinta dos Olmais has earned seven awards since 2016, which Alves said demon­strates the company’s com­mit­ment to qual­ity from the out­set.

These awards have sig­nif­i­cantly boosted our brand’s cred­i­bil­ity and rep­u­ta­tion in the mar­ket,” he said. They have pro­vided us with a plat­form to show­case our ded­i­ca­tion to qual­ity and have helped us gain the trust and loy­alty of con­sumers.”

Along with help­ing the brand, Alves agrees that the awards also increase the recog­ni­tion of Portuguese extra vir­gin olive oil abroad.

These awards high­light the excep­tional qual­ity and crafts­man­ship that Portuguese pro­duc­ers bring to the table,” he said. They help to ele­vate the rep­u­ta­tion of Portuguese olive oil on the global stage, show­cas­ing it as a prod­uct that com­petes with the best in the world.”

Meanwhile, Miguel Azevedo Remédio, the com­mer­cial direc­tor of Casa Agricola Roboredo Madeira (CARM), which cel­e­brated a third con­sec­u­tive Gold award for a medium organic blend, said that win­ning World Competition awards set a qual­ity bench­mark for the entire indus­try.

See Also:CARM Celebrates Regional Taste with High-End Olive Oils and Wines

While the Douro Superior-based pro­ducer said the com­pany saw a slight rebound in quan­tity, Remédio said they sig­nif­i­cantly increased qual­ity.

For CARM, [the award] means that we con­tinue on the right track and that the hard work we’ve put into last year’s har­vest was com­pen­sated,” he said. It helps a lot in con­tin­u­ing to build an image of qual­ity, both for CARM and Portuguese olive oils.”

The main chal­lenges we face are related to the lack of water and the dif­fi­culty of find­ing peo­ple to work the land,” he said. Regarding the last crop, we can’t com­plain much about rain­fall, but human labor is still an impor­tant issue.”

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Despite a golden finish to 2023/24, the producers behind CARM said drought and a lack of workers present ongoing challenges. (Photo: CARM)

On the other side of Portugal, in the south­ern region of the Algarve, the pro­duc­ers behind Viveiros Monterosa cal­i­brated win­ning a pair of Silver Awards at the NYIOOC.

Winning these awards is very mean­ing­ful, and it rec­og­nizes our ded­i­ca­tion and work in pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity oils for the past 20 years,” said oper­a­tions chief Pedro Esperança and com­mer­cial direc­tor António Duarte.

In recent years, Portuguese pro­duc­ers have made a big effort to pro­mote the qual­ity of their oils in the domes­tic mar­ket,” they added. Since this is the biggest inter­na­tional extra vir­gin olive oil com­pe­ti­tion, win­ning an award puts the Portuguese pro­duc­ers among the best oils from other coun­tries, and this helps change the way con­sumers view the prod­uct.”

After a bumper har­vest in 2023/24, the com­pany antic­i­pates a slight pro­duc­tion decline in the com­ing har­vest as many trees enter an off-year’ in the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree.

Farther north, Sociedade Agrícola Ouro Vegetal (SAOV) was another of the country’s biggest win­ners.

The com­pany, which Serralha pre­vi­ously told Olive Oil Times rep­re­sents about two per­cent of the country’s olive oil pro­duc­tion, earned two Gold Awards and three Silver Awards for its range of local mono­va­ri­etals, a blend and a Picual.

Throughout the years, the com­pe­ti­tion has proven to be a valu­able resource and good mar­ket­ing tool for SAOV and our part­ner Veronica Foods, who sup­plies a net­work of North American olive oil retail­ers,” said Alberto Serralha, the company’s chief exec­u­tive. The medals high­light excel­lence and pro­vide qual­ity assur­ance to the con­sumer.”

Serralha said the com­pany expe­ri­enced a 50 per­cent pro­duc­tion increase com­pared with 2022/23, but the har­vest was still below aver­age.

Due to early ripen­ing, we started har­vest­ing in late September and had to face chal­leng­ing weather con­di­tions, includ­ing high tem­per­a­tures and per­sis­tent rain,” he said.

Our uti­liza­tion of high vac­uum malax­a­tion allows instant paste tem­per­a­ture cor­rec­tion, a deci­sive step to achiev­ing high qual­ity under such adverse con­di­tions,” Serralha added. Our deci­sion to start har­vest­ing so early helped us com­plete the har­vest with­out being impacted by fruit dis­eases.”

Looking ahead to the 2024/25 crop year, Serralha said the sit­u­a­tion looks promis­ing for SAOV.

The expec­ta­tions are very favor­able in terms of crop size and cli­mate con­di­tions,” he said. We are opti­mistic and look­ing for­ward to begin­ning the sea­son.”

Other pro­duc­ers across Portugal shared his sen­ti­ments.

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Most producers anticipate another above-average harvest in 2024/25, but are waiting to see if the weather cooperates. (Photo: Quinta dos Olmais)

Looking ahead to the upcom­ing har­vest, we are opti­mistic about its cur­rent sit­u­a­tion,” Alves added. We have been dili­gently mon­i­tor­ing the health and devel­op­ment of our olive trees, and con­di­tions have been favor­able.”

However, he warned that there is still a long way to go before the har­vest begins in early October, and plenty could still change.

Of course, we remain vig­i­lant about weather pat­terns,” he said. Our prepa­ra­tion and ded­i­ca­tion give us con­fi­dence as we approach the har­vest sea­son, but, as always, let’s just hope the weather does­n’t throw us any curve­balls before har­vest.”

Paredes shared Alves’s sense of cau­tion, also cit­ing unusual weather con­di­tions as a fac­tor that tem­pers the com­pa­ny’s opti­mism ahead of the har­vest.

Portugal is expe­ri­enc­ing unusual weather with a lot of humid­ity, which is not typ­i­cal for this sea­son,” she said. In the com­ing weeks, heat waves are pre­dicted, which could affect the fruit by halt­ing its oil pro­duc­tion process. We must wait and hope for the best. For now, it seems very sim­i­lar to last year.”


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