Africa / Middle East

Production Stagnates in Egypt as Harvest Approaches

As millions of new olive trees are planted, another poor harvest is predicted after a cold winter and hot growing season.

While olive trees grow, oil production does not in Egypt.
Dec. 4, 2019
By Matthew Cortina
While olive trees grow, oil production does not in Egypt.

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After a cold win­ter fol­lowed by a hot grow­ing sea­son, Egypt is expect­ing low returns in terms of its olive oil pro­duc­tion. How­ever, the pos­si­bil­ity of a late surge for cer­tain cul­ti­vars remains.

The fore­cast comes as Egypt, the world’s sec­ond-largest table olive pro­ducer, is in the midst of plant­ing 100 mil­lion olive trees by the end of next year.

Expec­ta­tions in pro­duc­tion of oil will prob­a­bly drop for the begin­ning of the olive oil sea­son but will likely pick up towards the end with the late vari­eties such as Coratina.- Roba Ashraf, Wadi Food

The win­ter was colder than usual. Many cold hours affected the nat­ural devel­op­ment of flow­ers and delayed the bloom­ing sea­son by at least 15 days for most vari­eties,” Roba Ashraf of Wadi Food, one of the country’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ers, said. How­ever, the ver­nal­iza­tion was so intense that the trees had more flower buds than the pre­vi­ous years.”

The oil olive vari­eties pro­duced more fruits than the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons,” Ahraf added. How­ever, due to hot weather con­di­tions, some olives are ripen­ing too fast and are being har­vested before reach­ing the high­est lev­els of oil con­tent. Expec­ta­tions in pro­duc­tion of oil will prob­a­bly drop for the begin­ning of the olive oil sea­son but will likely pick up towards the end with the late vari­eties such as Coratina.”

See more: 2019 Har­vest News

Mild win­ters are best for the types of cul­ti­vars that thrive in Egypt – namely Picual, Man­zanilla, Kala­mata, Fran­toio and Arbe­quina, among oth­ers.

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In 2018, Egypt pro­duced 20,000 tons of olive oil, a large decrease from the two pre­vi­ous years, in which the coun­try pro­duced a record-set­ting 30,000 tons (2016) and 28,000 tons (2017).

Prior to the start of the 2018 har­vest year, Egypt rejoined the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil, bring­ing its pro­duc­tion pro­ce­dures in line with the rest of the olive oil-pro­duc­ing world.

Later that year, Egypt’s Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Land Recla­ma­tion, Ezz el Din Abu Steit, said the coun­try would invest in plant­ing olive trees on desert lands, with the goal of becom­ing one of the top seven coun­tries in olive oil pro­duc­tion.”

How­ever, it will take more than plant­ing mil­lions of olive trees to boost Egypt’s pro­duc­tion, Ashraf said, with weather events, resource costs and lags in infra­struc­ture as the pri­mary obsta­cles.

The main obsta­cle that we will face is the cost of pro­duc­tion cou­pled with the costs of har­vest­ing while mech­a­niza­tion of the dif­fer­ent oper­a­tions is not well devel­oped in Egypt,” Ashraf said. Irri­ga­tion is 100 per­cent in most olive groves in Egypt and the cost of water is increas­ing rapidly. Labor is also a lim­it­ing fac­tor as the har­vest sea­son coin­cides with many other crops that bring bet­ter returns such as pome­gran­ates and cit­rus.”

Ashraf said Wadi Food and other pro­duc­ers are wel­com­ing the invest­ment from the gov­ern­ment because it will help best the country’s pro­file beyond just that of a table olive pro­ducer.

Awards help boost its rep­u­ta­tion, too, such as the Sil­ver that Wadi Foods won at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion for its Picual.

As more Egypt­ian olive oils are shared with the global com­mu­nity, it will help buck the trend of olive oils from the coun­try being blended with other oils by large inter­na­tional com­pa­nies.

The best thing that could hap­pen for Egypt­ian olive oil pro­duc­ers, Ashraf said, is for con­sumers in the coun­try to be rein­tro­duced to the qual­ity of the local prod­uct.

His­tor­i­cally, the ancient Egyp­tians knew and used olive oil in their diet but also to illu­mi­nate their tem­ples and as an ingre­di­ent of mum­mi­fi­ca­tion,” Ashraf said. Since then, olive oil was redis­cov­ered recently with the new health trends in liv­ing as well as newly adopted culi­nary habits. This change has made the Egypt­ian con­sumer aware of the ben­e­fits as well as the qual­ity attrib­utes of the local olive oil.”





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