`South African Producers Hope for Winning Harvest - Olive Oil Times

South African Producers Hope for Winning Harvest

Apr. 29, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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Some favor­able weather and the grow­ing abil­ity of olive grow­ers to take care of their groves are fuel­ing hopes that the incom­ing 2022 har­vest sea­son will reward South African olive oil pro­duc­ers.

A wide sam­ple of pro­duc­ers from dif­fer­ent grow­ing areas have indi­cated that they are expect­ing a bet­ter crop than in 2021,” Vittoria Jooste, chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of the South African Olive Industry Association (SA Olive), told Olive Oil Times.

The major­ity of groves are tra­di­tional, with less than a hand­ful of inten­sive pro­duc­ers. With ris­ing input costs and con­sumer mis­in­for­ma­tion, local pro­duc­ers face a very tough bat­tle to com­pete and stay in busi­ness.- Vittoria Jooste, chief exec­u­tive offi­cer, SA Olive

According to SA Olive data, local farm­ers have man­aged to pro­duce around 1.6 to 1.7 mil­lion liters of extra vir­gin olive oil in each of the last two years.

Olive grow­ing is car­ried out in sev­eral areas of the coun­try, mostly in the Western Cape province, the coast of which stretches from Cape Town on the south Atlantic Ocean coast to the Indian Ocean coast.

See Also:Australian Producers Expect Another Excellent Harvest

The major­ity of South African olive groves are tra­di­tional, har­vested man­u­ally, with a spe­cific atten­tion to qual­ity,” Jooste said. Over 95 per­cent of our pro­duc­tion is extra vir­gin olive oils.”

In other areas, such as the Northern Cape Province, the Olives South Africa com­pany has expanded its irri­gated olive groves, which now boast more than 200,000 trees, mostly Mission, Frantoio and Coratina vari­eties.

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According to the local olive indus­try asso­ci­a­tion, the qual­ity of the final prod­uct has grown as it has grown the inter­est of the con­sumers.

Our extra vir­gin olive oils have con­sis­tently main­tained a high-qual­ity pro­file, which has been con­firmed by the many inter­na­tional prizes won by our pro­duc­ers over the years,” Jooste said.

At the 2021 edi­tion of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, South African pro­duc­ers earned four Gold Awards and five Silver Awards, tying the record for wins of the pre­vi­ous year. As the 2022 edi­tion of NYIOOC is in progress, local pro­duc­ers are wait­ing to see if they will best the last two years’ awards records.

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Prince Albert Valley and the Swartberg Mountains, South Africa

Each year we pre­pare for our har­vest know­ing that this com­pe­ti­tion is com­ing up,” Nick Wilkinson, co-owner of Rio Largo Olive Estate, told Olive Oil Times. We have par­tic­i­pated from the out­set and feel hon­ored that a small fam­ily estate all the way from the south­ern tip of Africa is able to stand its ground among all those inter­na­tional estates that have been pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil of dis­tinc­tion for gen­er­a­tions.”

Apart from some drought expe­ri­enced in recent years in a few areas, local farm­ers are enjoy­ing mostly favor­able weather despite the increas­ing effects of cli­mate change being felt glob­ally.

Our pro­duc­ers have been feel­ing the impact of cli­mate change, for instance, through pro­longed droughts, and this has a major impact on olive oil pro­duc­tion,” Jooste said.

Still, the main chal­lenge that pro­duc­ers in South Africa cite is their uphill bat­tle to reach con­sumers who are often used to cheaper prod­ucts and not always able to grasp the unique­ness of local extra vir­gin olive oil.

The major chal­lenge comes from com­pe­ti­tion with cheap, lower-qual­ity imported prod­ucts,” Jooste said. Consumers are mis­led into believ­ing that the Mediterranean olive oils that sit on super­mar­ket shelves next to our superb local extra vir­gin olive oils are of equal qual­ity.”

See Also:Farmers in New Zealand Optimistic Ahead of Harvest

Once prices are com­pared, local extra vir­gin olive oils lose out,” she added. The real­ity is that imported extra vir­gin olive oils of com­pa­ra­ble qual­ity to the local ones would retail at hun­dreds of rand [at the time of writ­ing €1 is worth nearly 17 rand].”

Today, a few dozen dif­fer­ent olive vari­eties from Italy, Spain and Greece com­prise the coun­try’s tra­di­tional groves with min­i­mal main­te­nance inter­ven­tions. The har­vest usu­ally hap­pens slightly early, and many olive farms col­lect their fruits only by hand. This allows spe­cific atten­tion to be paid to qual­ity, even if it trans­lates into higher pro­duc­tion costs.

According to SA Olive data, almost half of the approx­i­mately 200 pro­duc­ers in South Africa man­age farms smaller than five hectares, while just a few farms occupy more than 100 hectares.

The total esti­mated area of active olive groves ranges between 3,500 and 5,500 hectares, depend­ing on the [data] source. The major­ity of groves are tra­di­tional, with less than a hand­ful of inten­sive pro­duc­ers,” Jooste said. With ris­ing input costs and con­sumer mis­in­for­ma­tion, local pro­duc­ers face a very tough bat­tle to com­pete and stay in busi­ness.”

Still, con­sumers’ atten­tion is grow­ing. There has been increas­ing inter­est in extra vir­gin olive oil’s health ben­e­fits, even more with the Covid-19 pan­demic,” Jooste said.

SA Olive’s generic mar­ket­ing activ­i­ties are directed at cre­at­ing more aware­ness and grow­ing the demand for extra vir­gin olive oil,” she added. Sadly, con­sumers have been used to the fla­vor pro­file of super­mar­ket extra vir­gin olive oils, and much effort needs to go into edu­cat­ing them to appre­ci­ate the dif­fer­ence.”

One of the means through which SA Olive is sus­tain­ing the devel­op­ment of the local indus­try is the SA Olive cer­ti­fied qual­ity seal. It can be used by adher­ing pro­duc­ers whose activ­ity falls in line with the International Olive Council para­me­ters for extra vir­gin olive oil.

The seal indi­cates the low acid­ity and mod­er­ate to high polyphe­nol con­tent of the oils. Local experts believe the seal is cru­cial to give more oppor­tu­ni­ties to local pro­duc­ers, even more in a mar­ket where retail­ers do not con­sis­tently imple­ment full dis­clo­sure labels.

According to the local indus­try asso­ci­a­tion, tra­di­tional groves and approaches to olive grow­ing are here to stay. Traditional olive groves will long dom­i­nate the South African olive sec­tor.

It is unlikely that our olive groves will shift from tra­di­tional to inten­sive due to the cap­i­tal invest­ments required,” Joost con­cluded. In a coun­try with unem­ploy­ment close to 50 per­cent, labor cre­ation is a national imper­a­tive and olive farm­ing is a labor-inten­sive sec­tor.”


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