Modern Olive Growing Starting to Overtake Traditional Methods

While the majority of olive oil production still comes from traditional growers in the Mediterranean, newer farms are focusing on more efficient orchards and experiencing a steady growth in production.
Enzo Olive Oil Company
By Paolo DeAndreis
Dec. 18, 2020 10:02 UTC

Traditional olive farm­ing accounts for 70 per­cent of the total sur­face area of the world’s olive trees and pro­duc­tion from these groves accounts for 60 per­cent of the global total.

Meanwhile, mod­ern high-den­sity and super-high-den­sity groves con­sti­tute only 30 per­cent of the world’s olive tree sur­face area, but their yields account for 40 per­cent of global olive oil pro­duc­tion.

See Also:Italy’s Olive Oil Competitiveness Hindered by Aging Groves

These are some of the facts emerg­ing from research recently pre­sented by the Agri-Food Business School (ESNEA), Intercoop Consultoría and Juan Vilar Strategic Consulting at a con­fer­ence in Spain.

Eighty-seven per­cent of the global sur­face area of olive groves are located in nine Mediterranean coun­tries, where tra­di­tional olive farm­ing still dom­i­nates the scene.


Enzo Olive Oil Company, California

However, in some of the coun­tries, such as Portugal, mod­ern groves now rep­re­sent 64 per­cent of the total olive farms, while in Morocco many tra­di­tional olive groves are being trans­formed into mod­ern (45.7 per­cent) and inten­sive orchards (9.3 per­cent).

While the global sur­face area ded­i­cated to olive farm­ing remains at 11.5 mil­lion hectares, most emerg­ing coun­tries where olive oil cul­ture and olive farm­ing are mak­ing inroads are increas­ingly focus­ing on mod­ern orchards.

Every year, 1.5 per­cent of the cur­rent global olive tree sur­face area is trans­formed into mod­ern or inten­sive orchards, where pro­duc­tiv­ity far exceeds the capac­ity in tra­di­tional groves.

Today, the global sur­face of tra­di­tional orchards remains at 8.1 mil­lion hectares, of which 3.7 mil­lion – nearly one-third – can­not be mech­a­nized. The world has just over 4.4 mil­lion olive farms, with an aver­age size of 2.6 hectares.

See Also:Organic Olive Groves Flourish in Spain

Given these num­bers, the Spanish study noted that the path for tra­di­tional olive grow­ing is to invest in qual­ity and dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, such as organic farm­ing, from which the extra vir­gin olive oil can com­mand higher prices.

Still, mod­ern and inten­sive groves can pur­sue sim­i­lar goals, the experts added, and their prof­itabil­ity can grow even more by effi­ciently man­ag­ing pro­duc­tion costs.

According to the pro­jec­tions, the num­ber of organic olive groves will con­tinue to grow steadily due to the increased demand for sus­tain­able and envi­ron­men­tally-friendly prod­ucts

The study also noted that twelve per­cent of the global sur­face – about 1.4 mil­lion hectares – is cov­ered by diverse and spe­cific types of olive farm­ing: eco­log­i­cal cul­ti­va­tion, attic and emo­tional olive groves, bio­dy­namic and bio-regen­er­a­tive cul­ti­va­tion, groves for bio­di­ver­sity and his­toric olive farms.


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