Producers in Israel Reap Benefits of Record Harvest

Despite rising production costs and persistent challenges from imports, Israeli olive oil producers anticipate a bumper harvest and improved market share.

Lahav in organic, Fair Trade olive grove in Deir Hana
By Paolo DeAndreis
Dec. 12, 2022 14:29 UTC
Lahav in organic, Fair Trade olive grove in Deir Hana

Israeli olive grow­ers are cel­e­brat­ing a grat­i­fy­ing olive har­vest, with abun­dant fruits on the trees and sat­is­fy­ing lev­els of oil accu­mu­la­tion.

The olive oil sea­son in Israel is now at its peak,” Ehud Soriano, an inter­na­tional olive oil pan­elist and con­sul­tant for Sindyanna of Galilee, told Olive Oil Times.

We expect a record year for both olives and olive oil… So far (the har­vest) is beyond our expec­ta­tions for both quan­tity and qual­ity.- Ehud Soriano, olive oil con­sul­tant

The yield is high, and we expect a record year for both olives and olive oil,” he added. After two years of low yields, we expected this sea­son to be much bet­ter. So far, it is beyond our expec­ta­tions for both quan­tity and qual­ity.”

Many local grow­ers resorted to a late har­vest to wait for the fruit to ripen, which came later than the pre­vi­ous year.

See Also:2022 Harvest Updates

Last sea­son, we had an alter­nate bear­ing off-sea­son, which means that we did not have many fruits on the branches,” Nimrod Azulay, co-owner in charge of pro­duc­tion and sales at KeremZait, told Olive Oil Times.

And then we had quite a cold win­ter, which gave the trees the amount of cold they need, plus we had quite a humid grow­ing sea­son,” the award-win­ning pro­ducer added.

People have been har­vest­ing later than their usual sched­ule,” he con­tin­ued. It is a long har­vest sea­son this year, and all olive grow­ers I know and spoke with are quite sat­is­fied with the results.”

We went for a late har­vest,” Azulay said. We start har­vest­ing in mid-October and have usu­ally com­pleted it and milled the olives by the end of the month. However, the sea­son moved back three weeks this year, to say the least.”

While Israel is among the coun­tries on the east­ern end of the Mediterranean basin cel­e­brat­ing a fruit­ful har­vest in 2022, rel­e­vant chal­lenges remain for pro­duc­ers.

Life in the Middle East is always demand­ing,” Hadas Lahav, co-founder and chief exec­u­tive of Sindyanna of Galilee, told Olive Oil Times.

The local olive grow­ing com­mu­nity in Israel faces two urgent chal­lenges,” she added. The first is how to con­vert their groves to sus­tain­able farm­ing. The sec­ond is how to over­come the takeover of indus­try and build­ing on their shrink­ing agri­cul­tural lands.”

She empha­sized the rel­e­vance of installing advanced irri­ga­tion sys­tems and using mod­ern agro­nomic prac­tices to fos­ter sus­tain­abil­ity among local grow­ers.

On the other hand, the olive oil sec­tor is where econ­omy and cul­tures inte­grate most suc­cess­fully,” she said. Arabs, Jews, Israelis and Palestinians all come together with the joy and tired­ness of har­vest days.”

Lahav added that the har­vest’s mul­ti­cul­tural envi­ron­ment makes Sindyanna unique. Sindyanna uses the har­vest to bring peo­ple together,” she said.

Among its activ­i­ties, Sindyanna helps Arab farm­ers cer­tify their olives as organic and Fair Trade. The com­pany also helps them sell their olive oil in the local and inter­na­tional mar­kets.

Sindyanna also pur­chases organic olive oil from Palestinian farm­ers in the West Bank,” Lahav said. We are proud of our mod­est con­tri­bu­tion to strength­en­ing the Palestinian econ­omy and to cre­at­ing the hope of nor­mal life and coop­er­a­tion between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

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Still, olive oil pro­duc­ers in Israel have had to cope with ris­ing energy costs and a greater need for irri­ga­tion, which also trans­lates into higher costs.

We have been think­ing a lot about expand­ing our pro­duc­tion area, but it is not an easy task,” Azulay said. It is very expen­sive to grow trees, and water for agri­cul­ture is pricey as it is labor and fer­til­izer. These con­di­tions make it dif­fi­cult to be prof­itable.”

Due to the scarcity of water in Israel, which the World Resource Institute lists as the sec­ond most water-stressed coun­try on Earth, irri­ga­tion is becom­ing increas­ingly nec­es­sary for olive farm­ers,

With cli­mate change, includ­ing the long drought south­ern Europe suf­fered last sum­mer, there are no more doubts about the value of imple­ment­ing and using irri­ga­tion sys­tems in olive groves,” Soriano said.

To this end, Sindyanna is part of Artolio, an inter­na­tional project to assist olive grow­ers in the Mediterranean bas­in’s rural areas.

The fun­da­men­tal step for­ward of the farm­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in Artolio is to imple­ment irri­ga­tion,” Soriano said. Without it, the olive oil sec­tor in our region, as well as in other areas around the Mediterranean Sea, does not have a bright future.”

As a result of ris­ing costs for every­thing from irri­ga­tion to fuel, olive oil prices in Israel are increas­ing sim­i­larly to other parts of the world.

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Olive groves in KeremZait.

We had to increase prices 23 per­cent,” Azulay said. It is inevitable as pro­duc­tion costs rise, but it is also a dif­fi­cult choice, as your prod­uct will not reach every­one.”

He added that rais­ing prices also hurts the com­pet­i­tive­ness of Israeli olive oil on the domes­tic mar­ket since imported olive oils are often far cheaper. The con­sumers get used to low prices,” Azulay said.

Recently, one of the coun­try’s largest food retail­ers said olive oil bot­tles sold for a short period at only 11.50 shekels (€3.50) quickly achieved 81 per­cent of the local mar­ket share.

Meanwhile, Israeli olive oil brands are often sold for two to three times as much, with some pro­duc­ers care­fully cal­cu­lat­ing their abil­ity to reduce profit mar­gins to com­pete.

Educating con­sumers about olive oil qual­ity also remains a chal­lenge in Israel. Like every­where else, super­mar­kets sell non-vir­gin olive oil for far lower prices than Israeli extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers can sell their prod­ucts.

Still, things are chang­ing. There has been a big leap for­ward in recent years regard­ing agro­nomic prac­tices and bet­ter aware­ness about olive oil qual­ity,” Soriano said.

According to the International Olive Council, olive oil con­sump­tion in Israel has risen con­sis­tently in the last decade.

The good news in this con­text is that olive oil con­sump­tion in Israel is grow­ing and in a cer­tain way that boosts ques­tions about and aware­ness of olive oil qual­ity,” Azulay con­cluded. That is why the out­look remains good for extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers.”



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