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.

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.

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.

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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