Producers Anticipate Another Bumper Crop in Uruguay

Excellent weather and the widespread adaptation of agricultural best practices mean Uruguayan producers expect a bountiful harvest once again.
(Photo: Sergio Gómez)
By Daniel Dawson
May. 18, 2022 13:11 UTC

After an excep­tional har­vest in 2021 in which Uruguay yielded 1,900 tons of olive oil, pro­duc­ers once again expect another bumper crop.

I think we’re going to end up with a rea­son­ably good har­vest,” Martin Robaina, the pres­i­dent of the Uruguayan Olive Association (Asolur) and pro­ducer at Lote8, told Olive Oil Times.

I esti­mate we will have around 15,000 tons of fruit at the national level. The qual­ity will be as good as the pre­vi­ous year. We have a dry cli­mate this fall with lit­tle rain, which makes the oil have more aroma.- Sergio Gómez, Uruguayan direc­tor, Onoser

Most pro­duc­ers in the small South American coun­try began har­vest­ing their olives in the mid­dle of March and are expected to fin­ish in the first half of June.

Based on ini­tial reports, Robaina said Uruguayan pro­duc­ers were expected to har­vest 40 per­cent fewer olives, but the ones they were har­vest­ing have had above-aver­age oil con­tent in the dru­pes.

See Also:2022 Harvest Updates

In terms of quan­tity of fruit, it is a lit­tle less than last year,” he said. But this is greatly com­pen­sated because of the yields. Fat con­tents have been higher, so one thing off­sets the other.”

Sergio Gómez, the Uruguayan direc­tor of Onoser who advises many of the coun­try’s pro­duc­ers dur­ing the har­vest, agreed that 2022 will see a sim­i­lar yield to 2021, adding that cli­matic con­di­tions meant qual­ity would be as high as ever.

I esti­mate we will have around 15,000 tons of fruit at the national level,” he told Olive Oil Times. The qual­ity will be as good as the pre­vi­ous year. We have a dry cli­mate this fall with lit­tle rain, which makes the oil have more aroma. Our aver­age return will be around 15 per­cent [oil con­tent].”


Photo: Asolur

Gonzalo Aguirre, the co-owner of Olivares de Santa Laura, located in the north­east­ern province of Cerro Largo, is among the pro­duc­ers who took advan­tage of the favor­able cli­mate and har­vested his olives early this year.

We fin­ished at the end of April. We aim for a higher per­cent­age of early har­vest oil,” he told Olive Oil Times. It was a drier sum­mer and we obtained higher oil yields. We, in par­tic­u­lar, got less quan­tity but more qual­ity.”

Last year, we had an excel­lent har­vest in terms of quan­tity and the nat­ural [alter­nate bear­ing cycle] of the olive tree affected us,” he added. We have the chal­lenge of con­trol­ling the vari­a­tions more so that there is not so much dif­fer­ence between one year and another.”

However, Robaina said 2022 marked a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone for the fledg­ling com­mer­cial olive indus­try, which cel­e­brates its 20th anniver­sary this year.

It was the first time that many other pro­duc­ers man­aged to opti­mize the har­vest to mit­i­gate the impacts of the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree.

We are eager… that we can main­tain this level of pro­duc­tion because it is the way for pro­duc­ers to be viable,” Robaina said.

While adopt­ing agri­cul­tural and har­vest­ing best prac­tices com­bined with favor­able weather for olive grow­ing led to another boun­ti­ful har­vest, pro­duc­ers admit­ted that a tight agri­cul­tural labor mar­ket and sup­ply chain issues had cre­ated sev­eral chal­lenges.

The prob­lem that we mainly are hav­ing is with the avail­able work­force dur­ing the har­vest,” Robaina said. I think we are going to move towards a more mech­a­nized har­vest because human resources are scarce. It is a sea­sonal activ­ity, which makes it com­pli­cated.”

He added that pro­duc­ers were already begin­ning to work with Asolur on mech­a­niza­tion. Many of Uruguay’s olive trees are located on plains or gen­tle slopes, both of which are con­ducive to mech­a­niza­tion.


Gómez agreed: As the years go by, the fields are loaded with more and more fruit. The chal­lenge of each pro­ducer is to mech­a­nize the har­vest to col­lect the fruit on time, with­out los­ing qual­ity and quan­tity.”

Away from the olive groves, other pro­duc­ers told Olive Oil Times that they had issues acquir­ing glass bot­tles for their oils.

This year, the chal­lenge we face is the great dif­fi­culty in deliv­er­ing bot­tles. Uruguay does not pro­duce glass,” Natalia Welker, the owner of Bodega Oceánica, a pro­ducer based in the south­east­ern province of Maldonado, told Olive Oil Times.

Our bot­tles are all glass,” she added. Sales improved with oleo­tourism, which increased with the open­ing of Uruguay’s bor­ders.”

Robaina con­firmed that pro­duc­ers may have had issues acquir­ing the nec­es­sary bot­tles due to a coun­try’s gen­eral short­age of glass bot­tles. However, he added that these issues were begin­ning to sub­side.


The IOC technical visit in Uruguay. Photo: Asolur

One of the rea­sons for the short­age may have been a slight uptick in demand for olive oil dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­demic. Like many other coun­tries, the pan­demic caused more con­sumers to cook at home, which led to a slight increase in olive oil con­sump­tion.

This year’s har­vest also occurred against the back­drop of a for­mal visit from the International Olive Council, which ded­i­cated the 128th edi­tion of its Olivae mag­a­zine to the Uruguayan olive sec­tor.

Agricultural offi­cials in Uruguay greeted the visit as a way to pro­mote the sec­tor and, poten­tially, kick­start Uruguayan olive oil exports.

This mag­a­zine pro­vides a great oppor­tu­nity to show the Uruguayan olivi­cul­ture to the world as well as illus­trate the qual­ity of the extra vir­gin olive oils that are pro­duced in our coun­try,” said Juan Ignacio Buffa, the deputy min­is­ter for live­stock, agri­cul­ture and fish­eries.

Uruguay is an agro-export­ing coun­try that offers award-win­ning prod­ucts which are envi­ron­men­tally friendly,” he added. In that sense, Uruguayan olivi­cul­ture inter­acts in per­fect har­mony with other pro­duc­tion chains of the coun­try, such as cat­tle ranch­ing, forestry and tourism. Consequently, these olivi­cul­tural prod­ucts pro­vide diver­si­fi­ca­tion for Uruguay.”

Aguirre is among the pro­duc­ers try­ing to export his oils to the lucra­tive Brazilian mar­ket but admit­ted he is hav­ing some trou­ble gain­ing a foothold.

We are hav­ing greater pen­e­tra­tion in the domes­tic mar­ket, the con­sumer is increas­ingly appre­ci­at­ing the qual­ity of local extra vir­gin olive oil,” he con­cluded. Our chal­lenge is to sell more in Brazil.”


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