Business

Mixed Fortunes From 2019 Harvest in Brazil

While the sector continues to trend upwards, producers from the center of the country faced a setback with heavy rains this spring. Producers in Brazil's south are rejoicing over a bountiful harvest.

Minas Gerais countryside.
Feb. 25, 2019
By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas
Minas Gerais countryside.

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After a decade of build­ing the foun­da­tions, Brazil’s national olive oil indus­try is grow­ing and receiv­ing praise for the qual­ity of its oils.

In 2018, Brazil pro­duced 150,000 liters of olive oil, 43 per­cent more than in 2017. The 2019 olive har­vest­ing sea­son is cur­rently under­way and pro­duc­ers from the country’s two main olive grow­ing regions are expect­ing mixed results.

The 2018 win­ter was not too coop­er­a­tive and did­n’t pro­vide us with the nec­es­sary total hours of chilly weather, which is a direct rea­son why the crop is much below the expec­ta­tions- Nélio Weiss, Serra da Man­tiqueira-based pro­ducer

Some peo­ple pro­duced 10,000 liters and now they are pro­duc­ing 5,000 or 6,000 liters,” Pérola Polillo, a Brazil­ian olive oil som­me­lier and chef, told Olive Oil Times. In the south, it is the oppo­site, last year they had a bad har­vest because of frost and this year they’ve had a really good har­vest.”

Pro­duc­tion in the Serra da Man­tiqueira, which is located along the bor­der of Minas Gerais and São Paulo, began in Feb­ru­ary and pro­duc­ers are expect­ing a dis­mal har­vest.

See more: The Best Brazil­ian Olive Oils

There has been a size­able reduc­tion in this year’s crop as com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year. Some­where in the region of a 40 per­cent reduc­tion,” Nélio Weiss, a local pro­ducer in the region, told Olive Oil Times.

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The entire Man­tiqueira region is expe­ri­enc­ing a sub­stan­tial reduc­tion as com­pared to last year. My expec­ta­tion is that the pro­duc­tion will not exceed 50,000 liters,” he added. Weiss per­son­ally expects only to pro­duce 1,500 liters this year.

Olive cul­ti­va­tion in the Serra da Man­tiqueira rep­re­sents half of Brazil’s olive oil pro­duc­tion. The other half is in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. A very small amount of olive oil pro­duc­tion also takes place in Paraná and Espírito Santo.

In Rio Grande do Sul, pro­duc­ers are feel­ing more con­fi­dent.

It is still a lit­tle bit too early to talk about all the expected pro­duc­tion for our region in the south of Brazil, as we have been har­vest­ing for only two weeks,” Rafael Mar­che­tti, the direc­tor of Pros­per­ato, Brazil’s largest olive oil pro­ducer, told Olive Oil Times.

But we have an idea of some­thing around 160,000 to 180,000 liters, not count­ing the rest of Brazil,” he added. I would say that our com­pany will be respon­si­ble for one-third of this expected pro­duc­tion.”

Con­trast­ing weather con­di­tions in the two regions, which are sep­a­rated by about 900 kilo­me­ters, played a lead­ing role in deter­min­ing the suc­cess of the har­vests.

The 2018 win­ter was not too coop­er­a­tive and did­n’t pro­vide us with the nec­es­sary total hours of chilly weather, which is a direct rea­son why the crop is much below the expec­ta­tions,” Weiss said.

Polillo added that after a promis­ing spring, pro­duc­ers in the Serra da Man­tiqueira were opti­mistic, but unsea­son­able rain pre­vented trees from being able to pol­li­nate prop­erly.

In the spring there were a lot of flow­ers on the trees and grow­ers were very opti­mistic, but when they began to open and were being pol­li­nated, it started to rain a lot and the flow­ers could not be pol­li­nated,” she said. Now, the trees only have a few fruits.”

Mean­while in Rio Grande do Sul, the weather con­di­tions were ideal for olive oil pro­duc­tion.

After a per­fect win­ter with low tem­per­a­tures and no rain dur­ing the flow­er­ing period, we are expect­ing to have a great har­vest,” Mar­che­tti said.

See more: An Inter­view with Rafael Mar­che­tti

The unique weather and his­tory of the Serra da Man­tiqueira greatly impact the fla­vor pro­files and chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the result­ing oils, both for bet­ter and worse. Too much rain, as was the case this year, seeps into the soils and low­ers the polyphe­nol counts in the olives.

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Many of these olive trees are also grown in and around cof­fee plan­ta­tions, which dom­i­nated the region’s econ­omy and ecol­ogy for cen­turies.

Acid­ity from cof­fee plants has also affected olive trees, pos­si­bly low­er­ing polyphe­nols too,” Polillo said. The com­bi­na­tion of these fac­tors make the result­ing olive oil unique, with low bit­ter­ness, low pun­gency and high fruiti­ness.”

Brazil only pro­duces extra vir­gin olive oils. These are fresh, have a lively color, a unique fruity aroma and are mainly bot­tled by the pro­duc­ers, who tend to har­vest olives ear­lier in the sea­son and pro­duce blends from var­i­ous vari­eties.

Brazil­ian pro­duc­ers are all rel­a­tively new and as the har­vest sea­sons progress they are get­ting bet­ter and bring­ing in experts, such as Anto­nio Lauro, to come and advise them over best prac­tices,” Polillo said.

Epamig (the Minas Gerais AgroFish­ing Research Com­pany) pio­neered olivi­cul­tural research in Minas Gerais in the 1970s and has con­ducted a study on the genetic improve­ment and nat­ural selec­tion of eight Brazil­ian olive vari­eties, one of which is MGS Mariense, known as Maria da Fé, and is derived from the first Galega olive trees that were brought from Europe.

Epamig cer­ti­fied an oil made in Maria da Fé as the first olive oil made in Brazil from Brazil­ian-grown olives in 2018. Assoo­live rep­re­sents the inter­ests of olive pro­duc­ers in Man­tiqueira and is work­ing toward the cre­ation of a geo­graph­i­cal qual­ity indi­ca­tion for the oils pro­duced in Maria da Fé.

How­ever, the Span­ish vari­eties of Arbe­quina, Arbosana, Picual and Man­zanilla are mostly grown in Brazil since they have adapted the best to the cli­mate and soils. Grap­polo, Coratina, Fran­toio and Koroneiki are also found through­out the coun­try.

Brazil­ian oils have already received numer­ous inter­na­tional awards for their qual­ity. Serra dos Gar­cias, Olivi, Bor­riello and Pros­per­ato are some of the country’s pre­mium oil brands.

Fazenda Verde Oliva pro­duces a Brazil­ian extra vir­gin olive oil from organic and bio­dy­nam­i­cally-grown olives, one of the world’s very few bio­dy­namic extra vir­gin olive oils.

Even though olive trees were first brought to the coun­try in the colo­nial period, they did not pros­per and the gov­ern­ment did not try to fur­ther develop an olive oil indus­try, in order to favor Por­tuguese imports.

In the 1930s a Por­tuguese immi­grant brought olive trees to Maria da Fé, in the Serra da Man­tiqueira, where the cooler cli­mate helped them to pros­per.

By the 1940s, the gov­ern­ment had begun to exper­i­ment with olive plant­i­ngs, but the lack of ade­quate stud­ies led to the loss of more than 300,000 trees, which were aban­doned because of inad­e­quate pro­duc­tion.

The meta­mor­pho­sis truly began in 2005 when the gov­ern­ment of Rio Grande do Sul decided to expand olive groves by cre­at­ing syn­er­gies with the state’s winer­ies. One of these was Miolo, with an olive grove that inspired a wealthy Brazil­ian restau­ra­teur to enter the olive busi­ness, paving the way for larger investors to enter the sec­tor and expand plant­i­ngs.

Cur­rently there are 16,000 acres of olive groves planted in Brazil. The Insti­tute of Brazil­ian Olivi­cul­ture pre­dicts that this fig­ure will increase to nearly 25,000 acres by 2020 and 50,000 acres by 2025.





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