Spanish Producers Achieve Record Success at World Competition

Producers from across the country overcame drought and extreme weather events to earn a record-high 128 awards at the World Competition.
Photo: Oli Migjorn
By Daniel Dawson
Jun. 9, 2022 12:26 UTC

Part of our con­tin­u­ing spe­cial cov­er­age of the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Olive farm­ers, oil pro­duc­ers, bot­tlers and exporters in Spain cel­e­brated another record year at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Representatives from the largest pro­duc­ing coun­try enjoyed an excep­tional show­ing at the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion by every met­ric, earn­ing a record-high 128 awards from a record-tying 148 entries and achiev­ing a record-high 77 per­cent suc­cess rate.

For 30 years, Spanish pro­duc­tion has evolved towards greater pro­duc­tion in quan­tity and qual­ity.- Rafael Pico Lapuente, Spanish Association of Olive Oil Exporting, Industry and Commerce (Asoliva)

Rafael Pico Lapuente, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Spanish Association of Olive Oil Exporting, Industry and Commerce (Asoliva), told Olive Oil Times that the record year for Spanish pro­duc­ers at the com­pe­ti­tion indi­cated improv­ing qual­ity through­out the sec­tor.

For 30 years, Spanish pro­duc­tion has evolved towards greater pro­duc­tion in quan­tity and qual­ity,” he said.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils From Spain

These inter­na­tional awards make it pos­si­ble for con­sumers to value our olive oils due to the pres­tige that this entails,” Lapuente added. Spain exports 70 per­cent of what it pro­duces and these awards spread the word of the ben­e­fits and qual­i­ties of Spanish olive oil.”

As always, the lion’s share of the awards was won by pro­duc­ers in the south­ern autonomous com­mu­nity of Andalusia, which is respon­si­ble for about two-thirds of Spanish olive oil pro­duc­tion.

However, pro­duc­ers from Castilla-La Mancha, Spain’s sec­ond-largest pro­duc­ing region, Extremadura and Catalonia, also earned plenty of NYIOOC acco­lades.

Regardless of where they were from, pro­duc­ers across Spain faced plenty of chal­lenges through­out the 2021 crop year – dur­ing which Spain pro­duced 1.3 mil­lion tons of olive oil – from extreme weather events to per­sis­tent drought and ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs.

As for the whole world, 2021/22 was a dif­fi­cult year,” John-Dominic Cancilla, the sales man­ager at Marqués de Valdueza, told Olive Oil Times.


John-Dominic Cancilla

First because of the Covid-19 pan­demic itself, and then because of all the prob­lems of sup­ply, trans­porta­tion, cost increases and other obsta­cles caused by it, work­ing nor­mally was a major chal­lenge,” he added.

Cancilla and his team earned two Gold Awards for a pair of medium blends, adding to a pro­duc­tion legacy that dates back to 1624.

It always feels good to win awards at the NYIOOC, and doing a dou­ble like this year is apoth­e­o­sis,” he said. The NYIOOC awards give us vis­i­bil­ity in the mar­ket and are an adver­tise­ment for the con­sumer. In addi­tion, they are an incen­tive to con­tinue fight­ing to pro­duce oils of rec­og­nized qual­ity.”

The awards are all the more grat­i­fy­ing given the spe­cific chal­lenges of pro­duc­ing olive oil in the land­locked west-cen­tral region of the coun­try.

In Extremadura, as deduced from the region’s name, agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion is and has always been dif­fi­cult,” Cancilla said. Only with inti­mate com­plic­ity with the land and the extremeños is a pro­ducer capa­ble of get­ting the best of him­self and his envi­ron­ment.”

The scarce­ness of water and the region’s harsh cli­mate mark the ongo­ing strug­gle in the extreme coun­try­side,” he added.

Situated about 250 kilo­me­ters south­east of Marqués de Valdueza’s groves, the pro­ducer behind Nobleza del Sur, in Jaén, also cel­e­brated a pair of Gold Awards for two Picual mono­va­ri­etals.


Noblezas del Sur

This fan­tas­tic result is a boost of energy for the entire Nobleza del Sur team and con­sol­i­dates our com­mit­ment to qual­ity in olive oils for yet another har­vest,” owner Lola Sagra told Olive Oil Times.

Like in Extremadura, she added that each sea­son brings its own chal­lenges, with inter­na­tional awards serv­ing as a barom­e­ter to indi­cate how well the com­pany over­came them.


Every year is a new chal­lenge,” she said. Nature offers us dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios with dif­fer­ent cam­paigns; some rainier, oth­ers hot­ter, oth­ers drier like 2021/22 har­vest.”

However, Sagra added that Jaén’s priv­i­leged loca­tion and gen­er­a­tions of oil-pro­duc­ing know-how helped the com­pany suc­ceed.

Our olive tra­di­tion has its ori­gins in the year 1640, lead­ing us to be very knowl­edge­able about tra­di­tion­ally cul­ti­vated olive groves in Jaén,” she said. Although they require more work, their qual­ity is higher than in super-inten­sive (super-high-den­sity) cul­ti­va­tion of new plan­ta­tions in other regions and parts of the world.”

Sagra and the rest of the team at Noblezas del Sur hope that another suc­cess­ful year at the NYIOOC will help them gain more name recog­ni­tion in the lucra­tive United States olive oil mar­ket.

Just 140 kilo­me­ters north of Jaén, in the south­ern reaches of Castilla-La Mancha, the pro­duc­ers behind Olivapalacios also under­stand the impor­tance of win­ning at the NYIOOC for their global brand recog­ni­tion.


Photo: Olivapalacios

The NYIOOC awards are usu­ally closely fol­lowed by importers, mainly from Asian coun­tries,” Luis Rubio, the com­pa­ny’s export man­ager, told Olive Oil Times. This has been use­ful for us in that mar­ket, where we have the great­est inter­na­tional pres­ence.”

He added that the Silver and Gold Awards earned for a Picual and Arbequina mono­va­ri­etal, respec­tively, came about after a chal­leng­ing har­vest in cen­tral Spain.

We had to deal with a lot of inclement weather, such as low tem­per­a­tures and frost at the begin­ning of spring and Storm Filomena, the cold and snow­storm that affected all of Spain,” Rubio said.

Unlike Andalusia, [Castilla-La Mancha] lacks an olive tra­di­tion,” he added. There is no pop­u­lar cul­ture and pre­dis­po­si­tion for the man­age­ment and work in the olive sec­tor; nor is there exces­sively great sup­port on the part of the regional gov­ern­ment.”

However, the com­bi­na­tion of care­fully mon­i­tor­ing the groves through­out the year, the region’s nutri­ent-rich vol­canic soils and the prox­im­ity of a ded­i­cated mill once again allowed Olivapalacios to over­come the chal­lenges and pro­duce award-win­ning olive oil.

In the north­east­ern­most cor­ner of Spain, care­ful research and con­stant hard work have helped pro­pel pro­duc­ers in another non-tra­di­tional olive grow­ing region of the coun­try to their third year of suc­cess at the NYIOOC.


Aïna Llaudó

Oli Migjorn, sit­u­ated just north of the Catalan cap­i­tal of Barcelona, earned a Gold Award for an organic medium Arbequina.

It is an honor for us, as it is a very suc­cess­ful achieve­ment to win Gold at the NYIOOC after an intense year of work,” Aïna Llaudó, the com­pa­ny’s export man­ager, told Olive Oil Times.

Currently, many extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers pro­duce exquis­ite prod­ucts, so the Gold in such an inter­na­tional con­test gives us an advan­tage in the mar­ket com­pared to other pro­duc­ers,” she added.

As it was for many other pro­duc­ers, cli­mate change shaped many of the chal­lenges faced by the com­pany. Specifically, Llaudó cited the abrupt tem­per­a­ture changes from win­ter to sum­mer, which can dis­rupt the blos­som­ing and fruit set of the olive trees, as one of the tough­est chal­lenges.

The neglect of the olive groves in our area for years has been a chal­lenge,” Llaudó said. With the emi­gra­tion to the big cities in the 1960s and 1970s of the last cen­tury, they left behind vine­yards, olive groves and fields to work in the indus­trial belt of Barcelona.”

Currently, Oli Migjorn sources its olives from about 30 leased farms, where the pro­duc­ers are work­ing to recover the orig­i­nal land­scape. However, this presents chal­lenges as well.

The area’s geog­ra­phy with ter­races for cul­ti­va­tion often pre­vents the machin­ery from work­ing com­fort­ably, so labor has to be hired, mak­ing the prod­uct more expen­sive and thus mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to mar­ket,” Llaudó said.

The chal­lenge of har­vest­ing on ter­raced land is shared by another pro­ducer back in Andalusia, on the other side of the coun­try. However, the bur­den is spread out a bit dif­fer­ently.

Almazaras de la Subbética is an olive coop­er­a­tive… made up of more than 6,800 farm­ers, fam­i­lies who live by and for the olive grove,” María Carmen Rodríguez Comino, the com­pa­ny’s sales man­ager, told Olive Oil Times.


Photo: Almazaras de la Subbética

In the Sierras Subbéticas, we have a moun­tain olive grove, with high slopes with daily dif­fi­cul­ties in har­vest­ing and man­ag­ing them,” she added. Very high-qual­ity oil is pro­duced, but with very high pro­duc­tion costs due to the dif­fi­culty of the ter­rain.”

At the 2022 NYIOOC, the com­pany earned four Gold Awards for a pair of blends, one of which is organic, an organic Hojiblanca mono­va­ri­etal and an Arbequina.

For all the pro­duc­ers who make up one of Spain’s largest coop­er­a­tives, the awards are espe­cially grat­i­fy­ing after high tem­per­a­tures and low lev­els of rain­fall com­bined with a labor short­age to com­pli­cate the har­vest.

Comino added that a lack of young peo­ple com­ing to work at the coop­er­a­tive was also con­cern­ing. However, employ­ing a tech­ni­cal team of agron­o­mists and agri­cul­tural engi­neers means high-pay­ing jobs are pos­si­ble in the sec­tor and explains the com­pa­ny’s sus­tained suc­cess in the world’s most pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion.

It is a plea­sure and proud moment to have achieved these inter­na­tional recog­ni­tions with our four oils for another year,” she con­cluded. International awards always mean greater recog­ni­tion of our brands in dif­fer­ent mar­kets and an increase in sales.”


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