Project Showcases the Potential of Chinese Olive Oil Sector

A cooperative in Longnan aims to foster China's olive oil culture and build value for local growers.

Olive Times groves in Lognan, China.
By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 11, 2023 13:27 UTC
Olive Times groves in Lognan, China.

A young project aspir­ing to pro­duce high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil in cen­tral China won a Silver Award at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition for the sec­ond straight year.

Whispering Flowers olive oil is an Ezhi‑8 mono­va­ri­etal pro­duced by the Shangai Olive Light Biotechnology com­pany under the Olive Times brand.

We expect to reach the 10,000-ton thresh­old in the next few years. When con­sid­er­ing these fig­ures, one has to con­sider that in Longnan, we only pro­duce extra vir­gin olive oil. - Jane Gong, founder, Olive Times

It is a del­i­cate extra vir­gin olive oil made from olives grown around Longnan in the cen­tral Gansu province.

In Longnan, olive trees have been cul­ti­vated since the 1970s, which means that many of them are half a cen­tury old,” Jane Gong, founder of the project, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Producer Profiles

Earning a liv­ing with olive farm­ing has not been easy for thou­sands of farm­ers and olive grow­ers,” she added. Many of them over the years left the fields to look for more reward­ing work­ing con­di­tions in the coun­try’s big cities.”

Olive Times is the engine of a broader olive-based ini­tia­tive launched in 2018 by its par­ent com­pany, aim­ing to improve the local com­mu­ni­ty’s eco­nomic and social con­di­tions.

We came here as a com­pany intro­duc­ing inno­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity, mod­ern farm­ing tech­niques and olive oil qual­ity pro­duc­tion aim­ing at involv­ing farm­ers and giv­ing value to their work,” Gong said.


Jane Gong

Since the begin­ning, the idea was to set up a busi­ness that did not look for profit but aimed at improv­ing the con­di­tions of farm­ers,” she added.

As a result, Olive Times was cer­ti­fied in 2022 by B‑Corp, an orga­ni­za­tion devoted to eval­u­at­ing com­pa­nies work­ing to improve the socioe­co­nomic con­di­tions of local com­mu­ni­ties.

Among its pri­or­i­ties, the com­pany listed the need to train grow­ers to ensure cor­rect prun­ing and spread envi­ron­men­tally friendly agri­cul­tural tech­niques. One of the rel­e­vant chal­lenges we still face is the lack of work­force,” Gong said.

We aim at pro­mot­ing high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil to give a hand to the local com­mu­nity,” she added. That is our first pri­or­ity. It is also why we entered the NYIOOC: to help them. That is the rea­son we are so happy for the award.”

Gong said many local olive grow­ers are involved in the project, and she hopes more will join as olive oil cul­ture spreads.


Harvesting olives in Lognan, China

Today, olive oil plays only a small part in the kitchen or the restau­rants, and it is often con­sid­ered too expen­sive,” she said.

Knowledge about olive oil is still lack­ing, as most con­sumers do not know the dif­fer­ences between the dif­fer­ent grades of olive oil,” Gong added.

Things are chang­ing, though,” she con­tin­ued. We can see how younger peo­ple, often res­i­dents in large cities, are more and more inter­ested in health. They are now dis­cov­er­ing the many health ben­e­fits of olive oil con­sump­tion.”

In the Gansu province, olive groves cover more than 41,500 hectares, rep­re­sent­ing 60 per­cent of all groves in China.


There are projects to expand the cur­rent sur­face fur­ther, and in the next three years, we fore­see that it will reach 66,667 hectares,” Gong added.

According to Olive Times, the aver­age annual olive yield in Gangsu province is about 38,000 tons, trans­form­ing into 5,700 tons of extra vir­gin olive oil each year.

These fig­ures make Gansu province one of China’s sig­nif­i­cant olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions. According to the International Olive Council, olive oil yields in China grew from 5,500 tons in the 2018/19 crop year to 8,500 tons esti­mated for the cur­rent sea­son.

We expect to reach the 10,000-ton thresh­old in the next few years,” Gong said. When con­sid­er­ing these fig­ures, one has to con­sider that in Longnan, we only pro­duce extra vir­gin olive oil. We do not pro­duce lower grades of olive oil.”


Gong expects Chinese olive oil production to exceed 10,000 tons in the near term.

According to the com­pany, the high qual­ity of the prod­uct sug­gests the vast poten­tial for the area. The com­pany depends on its mod­ern mill, which processes olives within a few hours of the har­vest.

Olives are always trans­formed within a max­i­mum of 24 hours from har­vest,” Gong said. Additionally, we are in con­tin­u­ous con­tact with the millers to set spe­cific para­me­ters to obtain the high­est qual­ity from each batch.”

Since 2019, Chinese insti­tu­tions and IOC have launched a series of joint projects to sup­port the devel­op­ment of the local olive indus­try. IOC experts told us that because of its cli­mate and soil, Longnan is the ideal cra­dle for the olive tree,” Gong said.

She cited the sim­i­lar lat­i­tude of the region to the Mediterranean basin, ade­quate sun­shine, a high level of organic nutri­ents in the soil and the ben­e­fits of irri­ga­tion from the Bailong River as rea­sons why olives thrive in Lognan.

The Olive Times founder noted how these char­ac­ter­is­tics match the pref­er­ences of Chinese con­sumers. Today, most olive oil con­sumed in China comes from abroad,” Gong said. As they learn that olive oil is good for health, they often use it only on cold serv­ings, such as a salad.”

We are very active in spread­ing the word about olive oil qual­ity and the qual­ity of Chinese olive oil,” she added. We use sev­eral dif­fer­ent means, some of which are very pop­u­lar such as TikTok. Between October and November, we also have con­sumers com­ing over and see the trees and taste the new olive oil.”

It is not just con­vey­ing the healthy qual­i­ties of the prod­uct; it is also show­ing peo­ple how to use it,” Gong con­cluded. We are con­vinced that the Chinese mar­ket rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­nity for the olive sec­tor, as olive oil con­sump­tion is des­tined for huge growth.”

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