Trouble for Spain’s 'green gold' as olive crop yield down by one-third

Farmers fear the Andalusia olive-growing region could lose up to €1 billion

Asaja, a farmers' organisation, estimated Spain would produce about 1 million tonnes of olive oil. AFP/fie
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Farmers in southern Spain fear extreme drought and consecutive heatwaves could cut olive oil output of the world's largest producer by nearly a third.

Fertile ground is being suffering a long period of dry weather, putting the success of the 2022-2023 crop in doubt.

Asaja, an association of young farmers in the main olive-growing region of Andalusia, estimated Spain would produce about 1 million tonnes of oil, down from 1.48 million tonnes pressed in the 2021-2022 harvest, according to the latest official data.

In Jaen, a city in Andalusia, farmers fear the province could lose up to €1 billion, unless the drought breaks.

Farmers said the province would produce 230,000 tonnes of olive oil, about half of the 499,796 tonnes produced in the 2021-2022 crop year.

One farmer, Francisco Elvira showed off his devastated grove.

“Look at them. They ought to be bursting with olives now, close to the harvest. But they're empty. And this is the crop that should produce the oil in supermarkets next year,” he said.

Primitivo Fernandez, head of the National Association of Edible Oil Bottlers, said “it is almost certain that we will produce less than last year's harvest”.

Farmers’ leader Juan Gadeo said the crop could mean laying off workers in the “depression and uncertainty”.

“Shoppers are already paying a third higher than last year — but the drought will increase that even more,” he said.

“With the downturn, we may have to lay off some workers. There's a feeling of depression and uncertainty. Another year like this would be a complete catastrophe.”

Insufficient rain in the spring meant reservoirs were not filled than usual, while in some areas high temperatures have affected olive trees in full bloom.

Environment Ministry data from early August showed Spain's dams at 40.4 per cent of their capacity, below the average of about 48.5 per cent over the last decade.

Olive oil production in Portugal was also expected fall by half, producers have agreed.

Mariana Matos, secretary-general of Casa do Azeite producers’ association, said this season’s crop will be about 100,000 tonnes compared to 206,000 tonnes last year.

Updated: August 30, 2022, 11:27 AM