` South African Olive Oil Goes Wild - Olive Oil Times

South African Olive Oil Goes Wild

Jun. 28, 2011
Alice Alech

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South Africans are grow­ing more olives both for the table olive mar­ket and the pro­duc­tion of olive oil. New trees are con­stantly being planted with olive farms grow­ing at a rate of 20 per­cent annu­ally and dou­bling in size every four to five years.

Compared to the world lead­ers such as Spain and Italy, an annual pro­duc­tion of 1,200 tonnes of olive oil may seem insignif­i­cant, but it amounts to 20 per­cent of the local con­sump­tion. The rest is imported.

Today, South African olive oils are rated among the best, com­pet­ing and win­ning inter­na­tional prizes abroad, while at home local demands are increas­ing due to more aware­ness of the health ben­e­fits and uses of olive oil. The coun­try won its first prize in 1907. The first olive oil made in South Africa by a Mr. Minaar in Paarl was awarded the prize of The best olive oil in the British Empire’. It may, of course, have been the only one. From those ear­lier days, inter­na­tional awards fol­lowed.

The 2011 har­vest is still in progress, but already at the Los Angeles EVOO Awards, three prizes were awarded to local oils: Andante, for Best of Class Gold Medal robust Nocellara del Belice Western Cape 2011, Morgenster Estate which con­sis­tently wins inter­na­tional acco­lades, won a Silver Medal for its medium fruity oil of 2011, while Willow Creek, another con­sis­tent win­ner, obtained a Bronze Medal for its del­i­cate lemon-infused oil.

As most of the olive plan­ta­tions in South Africa, Willow Creek is sit­u­ated in the Western Cape where the tem­per­ate Mediterranean cli­mate is ideal for the groves. Andries Rabie planted his first olive trees here in 1999 and pressed his first olive oil in 2002. At Willow Creek Estate, they plant the clas­sic cul­ti­vars — Coratina, Frantoio, Leccino, Barnea, Koroneika, Favoloza, Mission, Kalamata, Noccelara del Belice and Manzanilla.

Availability of labor in South Africa allows the ripe black fruit to be picked man­u­ally so the olives remain intact, not bruised. Harvesting in South Africa depends a lot on envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions and usu­ally takes place between March and July.

Arthur Goodger from Willow Creek said that there is a need to edu­cate South Africans, to make them under­stand what makes a good qual­ity olive oil. He feels this will help reduce the high vol­ume of imported oils. In 2010, a total of 6,000 tonnes of olive oil was imported with an import value of R154.7 mil­lion ($225 mil­lion). South Africa imports a lot of olive oils, more than we would hope and some not very good qual­ity olive oil. The prob­lem is there is no con­trol over what olive oils are imported,” Arthur said.

The South African Olive Oil Association, (SAOlive) is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing a healthy future for South Africans and rep­re­sents the inter­ests of the South African Olive Industry. The one hun­dred mem­bers fol­low SA Olive’s pub­lished Codes of Practice which are based on inter­na­tional qual­ity stan­dards. The SA Olive Commitment to Compliance ini­tia­tive allows pro­duc­ers to dis­play a seal on local bot­tles of olive oil which indi­cates when the olives were pressed and that the pro­ducer com­plies with the stan­dards set out by SA Olive.

Linda Costa who helped set up the SA Olive scheme said: the aim of this is to build con­sumer con­fi­dence in the prod­ucts and it is really work­ing well — the con­sumer is now ask­ing for the seal.”

Linda grew up on an olive farm and is pas­sion­ate about olive oil. Her grand­fa­ther, Ferdinando Costa, was the first to start the olive oil indus­try in the Paarl region and made his first olive oil in 1936. She is a con­sul­tant in many areas related to olives and was awarded Achiever of the Year in 2010 for her work on pro­mot­ing the olive indus­try as well as main­tain­ing the high qual­ity of olive oil in the coun­try. Linda has been a pre­sen­ter for the Savantes pro­grams in Australia and South Africa.

In 2006, Linda and part­ner Sandra van Schaik started Olives Go Wild to dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion to entrants into the olive oil indus­try. The team presents courses and work­shops on olive oil appre­ci­a­tion and table olive pro­cess­ing for begin­ners and advanced lev­els.

South Africans are indeed becom­ing more aware of the health val­ues of olive oil as well as more appre­cia­tive of their own extra vir­gin. Consumption of olive oil is now over 3.5 mil­lion liters with local demand for olives grow­ing by 10 per­cent each year and at least 20 per­cent for oil.

Olives Go Wild has recently come up with a pack­ag­ing con­cept to com­bat the neg­a­tive effects of expo­sure to air and light. Customers are wary of pur­chas­ing large vol­umes of olive oil, fear­ing oxi­da­tion. We wanted to find a way to offer larger vol­umes at com­pet­i­tive prices while still guar­an­tee­ing a supe­rior prod­uct,” explained Linda.

South African con­sumers of olive oil now have the Vacu-Fresh olive oil dis­penser, a fully recy­clable card­board tube con­tain­ing a col­lapsi­ble anaer­o­bic bag filled with 1.25 liters of high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.

We are excited about Vacu-Fresh, it is so unique, and the con­sumer is appre­ci­at­ing its ben­e­fits – we select the pro­ducer of the best oil and then blend our own spe­cific prod­uct,” she added.

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