Some Hope for Growers as Rain Falls in Andalusia

For many producers in southern Spain, too little rain has fallen too late, with expectations of another poor harvest looming. Still, the rain lifted expectations.

Oro del Desierto's olive groves in Almería
By Daniel Dawson
Jun. 5, 2023 14:42 UTC
Oro del Desierto's olive groves in Almería

After months of antic­i­pa­tion, the rain finally came to Andalusia, the world’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region.

However, the light show­ers that fell across the south of Spain have not been enough to coun­ter­act the effects of the ongo­ing drought.

In the whole of Andalusia, the fore­casts are bad due to the pro­longed drought that has neg­a­tively affected flow­er­ing… I can say that Andalusia will once again have a rather low har­vest for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year.- Rafael Alonso Barrau, com­mer­cial and export direc­tor, Oro del Desierto

Local media reported that in Jaén, Andalusia’s most pro­lific olive-grow­ing province, high tem­per­a­tures and the strong sun emerged after nearly two weeks of rain in which less than 100 liters of water fell per square meter.

The moun­tain­ous east and west of the province report­edly received the most pre­cip­i­ta­tion, and Spain’s state mete­o­ro­log­i­cal agency, Aemet, expects a lit­tle more rain to fall in the com­ing weeks.

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

The pre­vail­ing wis­dom among mete­o­rol­o­gists and olive grow­ers is that at least a month of these rains would be needed to reach nor­mal lev­els in the hydro­log­i­cal year.

The out­look for the exist­ing har­vest has been strength­ened at least tem­porar­ily by the rains, although they were insuf­fi­cient,” Juan Vilar, a strate­gic con­sul­tant based in Jaén, told Olive Oil Times.

He added that more rain is expected in June and fore­casted for the autumn, fur­ther improv­ing the har­vest out­look.

However, the effects of Spain’s dev­as­tat­ing drought have already taken their toll on the olive groves, and Vilar expects the har­vest will not fully recover from last year’s his­toric low.

According to data from Aemet, an aver­age of 371 mil­lime­ters of rain have fallen across Spain since the start of the hydro­log­i­cal year in October 2022, 27 per­cent lower than the aver­age amount of rain expected by Spain.

Most of south­ern and east­ern Spain, includ­ing three of the fourth largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions (Andalusia, Castille-La Mancha and Catalonia), has received less than 300 mil­lime­ters of rain in the hydro­log­i­cal year.

While olive trees can sur­vive on less than 200 mil­lime­ters of rain annu­ally, most olive trees for oil pro­duc­tion require between 400 and 1,000 mil­lime­ters annu­ally for opti­mal pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Rain has also not fallen evenly and has yet to sig­nif­i­cantly raise the lev­els of aquifers and reser­voirs, many of which still sit at his­toric lows.

According to data from the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge cited by the Jaén chap­ter of the Association of Young Farmers and Ranchers (Asaja), water reserves across Spain sits at slightly less than 50 per­cent of total capac­ity.

Despite the rain, water lev­els in the Guadalquivir basin, par­tially located in Andalusia, fell to 23.8 per­cent, a 0.2 per­cent decrease com­pared to the week before and sig­nif­i­cantly below last year’s lev­els and those of the 10-year aver­age.

Ministry data shows that 16 of Spain’s 17 water­shed areas are below the 10-year aver­age. Meanwhile, ten are at lower capac­ity than last year, with much of the reprieve com­ing for water­sheds in the coun­try’s north, which has a his­tor­i­cally wet­ter cli­mate.

Immediately after the rain­fall at the end of May, olive oil prices at ori­gin dipped slightly but have since returned to record highs, with pro­duc­tion expec­ta­tions for the 2023/24 crop year lower than the his­tor­i­cal aver­age would sug­gest they should be.


In its weekly report, Andalusia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development said that while many of the region’s olive groves are enter­ing fruit­set, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of groves of Picual trees in east­ern Jaén would not come to fruition after the flow­ers were lost.

The regional min­istry also reported that in groves where fruit set had taken place, farm­ers were see­ing notice­ably smaller olives, some the size of a pin­head,” and con­cluded that expec­ta­tions are not good,”, espe­cially in groves around Úbeda, Baeza and Mancha Real where flow­er­ing has been bad.”

East of Jaén in the nearby province of Almería, Rafael Alonso Barrau, the com­mer­cial and export direc­tor of Oro del Desierto, said he received lit­tle reprieve from the rain.

He told Olive Oil Times that dry weather and high heat in April resulted in a low-qual­ity bloom in Almería. When the rain came in mid-May, it brought hail, and Alonso said this also dam­aged many of the trees.

In the whole of Andalusia, the fore­casts are bad due to the pro­longed drought that has neg­a­tively affected flow­er­ing,” he said. This clashes with news of bet­ter world fore­casts com­pared to last year.”

I can say that Andalusia will once again have a rather low har­vest for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year,” Alonso con­cluded.

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