Inclement Weather Dampens Argentina Olive Harvest, But Quality Remains High

Estimates for the 2021 harvest see production falling or remaining steady. Producers say they are more concerned about exports and prices.

Photo: Maria Gabriela Panelli
Jun. 7, 2021
By Michael Mackey
Photo: Maria Gabriela Panelli

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Argentina’s olive har­vest is expected to be slightly lower than in pre­vi­ous years fol­low­ing bad weather impact­ing the indus­try.

Intermittent episodes of frost, hail, intense rain­fall and floods led the Ministry of Agriculture to declare a state of emer­gency and agri­cul­tural dis­as­ter across the olive-grove-rich province of San Juan.

In 2020/21 cam­paign is expected to reach 80,000 tons for table olives and 27,000 tons for olive oils, both with a decrease from the pre­vi­ous cam­paign.- Andrés Boscovich, ana­lyst, IES Consultores

In a state­ment, the min­istry specif­i­cally men­tion­ing the dam­age done to olive grow­ers, along with vine­yards and other fruit orchards.

These dec­la­ra­tions fol­lowed a May 17thstate­ment in which a 180-day state of emer­gency and agri­cul­tural dis­as­ter was declared, for rea­sons of late frosts and extreme tem­per­a­tures for the olive-grow­ing activ­ity of Catamarca.”

See Also:2021 Harvest Update

The impact on the indus­try and this year’s out­put is likely to be severe, with one expert fore­cast­ing a dou­ble-digit fall.

Andrés Boscovich, an ana­lyst with IES Consultores, told Olive Oil Times that the total olive har­vest is expected to be about 16-per­cent lower than in the pre­vi­ous cam­paign.

In 2020/21 cam­paign is expected to reach 80,000 tons for table olives and 27,000 tons for olive oils, both with a decrease from the pre­vi­ous cam­paign,” he said.

The Argentina Olive Federation pre­dicts that the har­vest will be closer to 30,000 tons of olive oil, roughly the same amount pro­duced in 2020.

While pro­duc­tion in Argentina remains more or less steady and seems far from sur­pass­ing the record-highs of 2018, improv­ing eco­nom­ics is a major con­so­la­tion for pro­duc­ers.

While vol­umes are down, olive oil prices are at least sta­ble with a slight rise – helped by the deci­sion of the Argentinian gov­ern­ment to drop export taxes which has helped make the prod­uct cost-effec­tive.

The 2020 export price has been low, but in the cur­rent year, it went up six per­cent in the first quar­ter,” Boscovich said.

According to the Argentina Olive Federation, high export duties and other pro­duc­tion costs severely limit the sector’s poten­tial. If these bur­dens were reduced, Argentina could pro­duce twice as much olive oil, the fed­er­a­tion believes.

Producers in the field have largely sup­ported the broader view on the sec­tor taken by ana­lysts, with one grower telling Olive Oil Times that quan­tity was down, but the qual­ity was very good.”

This was cor­rob­o­rated by another pro­ducer who paid trib­ute to the industry’s abil­ity to get the har­vest despite the com­pli­ca­tions cre­ated by the Covid-19 pan­demic.

It was undoubt­edly a dif­fi­cult har­vest due to the effects of Covid-19,” Maria Gabriela Panelli, the com­mer­cial man­ager of Olivum, told Olive Oil Times. However, we are already in the last days, proud to have gone through it tak­ing care of our peo­ple. Argentina expects a good har­vest, and very good gen­eral qual­ity of its oils already char­ac­ter­izes us.”

We had to quickly adapt to new and var­ied pro­to­cols to move for­ward with the har­vest and pro­duc­tion of the oils, as well as estab­lish pro­to­cols for the cir­cu­la­tion of trucks with fruit, processed prod­ucts and to con­tinue export­ing,” Panelli added.

Harvests have been volatile in recent years, aver­ag­ing 91,000 tons of olives har­vested from 2016 to 2021, Boscovich pointed out. Climate con­di­tions, which heav­ily deter­mine the result of the har­vest, are the main rea­son for volatil­ity, along with prices.

The present har­vest is likely to fin­ish in September 2021,” Boscovich said, adding it would be dif­fi­cult,” but part of a global pat­tern of declin­ing world pro­duc­tion from the pre­vi­ous year.

Despite poor har­vests across much of the Mediterranean, a rel­a­tively good year in Spain in 2020 may also dampen the out­look for Argentian pro­duc­ers look­ing to sell their oils abroad.

In 2020, Spain bought a lot of olive prod­ucts because of the cri­sis that the olive sec­tor expe­ri­enced in that coun­try,” Boscovich said. In the cur­rent cam­paign, [we] are not expect­ing sales to Spain, and it is dif­fi­cult to open new trade mar­kets on this year.”

As a result of this sta­sis, Argentina’s export mar­kets for both table olives and olive oil are likely to remain unchanged and go to neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, such as Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, along with the United States.

Among the chal­lenges that pro­duc­ers who seek to export their prod­ucts face this year is the ongo­ing need to invest in trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, which the pan­demic has exac­er­bated.

The global prob­lems of mar­itime and air trans­port affect both the import of goods and spare parts and the export of oils,” Panelli said. Let’s hope the end of the pan­demic is approach­ing.”

Boscovich added that another worry for pro­duc­ers is increas­ing com­pe­ti­tion from Chile, which con­tin­ues to have con­sis­tent and high-qual­ity har­vests over the pre­vi­ous few years and is get­ting increas­ing recog­ni­tion on the world stage.

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