Business

Canary Islands Seek to Strengthen Emerging Olive Oil Industry

The consolidation of the olive oil industry in the Canary Islands is moving at a fast pace. The number of olive trees being cultivated has grown quickly as has olive oil production.

The big volcano on Tenerife.
Feb. 12, 2019
By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas
The big volcano on Tenerife.

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Olive oil is on the rise in Spain’s Canary Islands. Over the past decade, olive grove sur­face area grew by 243 per­cent, increas­ing from 254 acres in 2011 to 872 acres in 2017.

With this increase in trees has come an increase in oil pro­duc­tion too. Over the same period, pro­duc­tion rose from 437 tons to 2,192 tons, a 401-per­cent increase. Some sug­gest that with growth like this, olive oils from this Spanish arch­i­pel­ago may soon gain weight in Spain’s over­all olive oil scene.

The Canary Islands are an arch­i­pel­ago in the Atlantic Ocean made up of sev­eral islands, of which Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote are the largest. Approximately 75 per­cent of olives har­vested here are pressed for olive oil.

See more: Spanish Olive Oil Production

A little less than one-third of the islands’ olive plant­i­ngs are located on Gran Canaria, where about 250 acres of olive trees are planted. Fuerteventura, with about 200 acres, and Tenerife, with about 185, make up the top pro­duc­ers.

Olives are a cen­turies-old cul­ti­var in the Canary Islands. However, the sector remained rather quiet for a long period until 2005, when the regional gov­ern­ment began a pilot pro­gram at a local coop­er­a­tive aimed at the pro­duc­tion of olive oil.

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The pro­gram began in Tenerife with the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and expan­sion of wild cen­te­nary olive trees, which in a short period of time became highly pro­duc­tive and wide­spread, nur­tur­ing the pro­duc­tion of olive oil. The pro­gram later expanded to other islands. By 2010, Tenerife had 40,000 olive trees and had under­gone sev­eral pro­duc­tion cam­paigns.

In Gran Canaria, there is an olive pro­duc­tion tra­di­tion that dates back to the nine­teenth cen­tury, but at least half of its olive trees were planted recently. In 2001, its first olive mill was inau­gu­rated. Now, there are about 10 olive oil pro­duc­ers on the island.

Olive cul­ti­va­tion has also expanded greatly in Fuerteventura. The island has a mill in the exper­i­men­tal farm of Pozo Negro, which is used by local pro­duc­ers to press their olives. Olivafuer is a large asso­ci­a­tion of local oil pro­duc­ers on the island.

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In October 2018, the island of El Hierro inau­gu­rated its first public olive mill, a state-of-the-art facil­ity that ben­e­fits all grow­ers.

Olive vari­eties planted in the Canary Islands mostly include Arbequina, Hojiblanca and Picual. To a lesser extent Gordal, Manzanilla and Cornicabra are also planted. However, it is Verdial Canaria, a local vari­ety, which is the most attrac­tive for  olive oil pro­duc­ers because of its dis­tinct per­son­al­ity, sea­soned with the spe­cial organolep­tic traits con­ferred to it by the islands’ vol­canic soils.

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Since pro­duc­tion vol­umes are still lower than in other regions, the Canary Islands put empha­sis on the qual­ity and dis­tinc­tive­ness of their oils to build the sector’s com­pet­i­tive advan­tage.

To this end, the gov­ern­ment has been con­duct­ing train­ing ses­sions for olive grow­ers, and courses about olive cul­ti­va­tion and oil appre­ci­a­tion, espe­cially among the younger gen­er­a­tions whom the gov­ern­ment wants to attract to the sector.

The gov­ern­ment is also work­ing on the improve­ment of agro­nomic prac­tices, recu­per­a­tion of the tra­di­tional olive groves, pro­mo­tion of new plant­i­ngs, stim­u­la­tion of coop­er­a­tives and joint actions as well as the devel­op­ment of mar­ket­ing efforts that pursue a high-qual­ity prod­uct. Industry meet­ings are also con­vened for pro­duc­ers from the var­i­ous islands to exchange expe­ri­ences about the sector.

Tegurey, Palmaoliva, Hacienda Jiménez Tres Olivos, Legado de Abona and Agroturismo La Gayria are some of the brands of Canarian olive oils. Finca Noel is one of the islands’ eco­log­i­cal oil pro­duc­ers. Canarian extra virgin olive oils have fruity aromas, smooth fla­vors, great bal­ance, and har­mony between spici­ness and bit­ter­ness.

The first edi­tion of the islands’ annual extra virgin olive oil com­pe­ti­tion was held in 2016. This con­test seeks to high­light the qual­ity of the oils, sup­port their pro­mo­tion and improve their sales. Twenty olive oils from three main pro­duc­ing islands par­tic­i­pated in the 2019 com­pe­ti­tion, which was held in January.

Tourism has been a dri­ving force for the olive oils of the Canary Islands, which are also dis­cussing the path toward the cre­ation of a qual­ity des­ig­na­tion of origin for its prod­uct.

To pro­mote its olive oils, the Canary Islands actively par­tic­i­pate in tourism and food fairs held both in Spain and abroad. The islands seek to increase the pres­ence of the award-wining oils in hotels and restau­rants, using tourism as a pro­mo­tional plat­form.

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