Australia’s Olive Production Declines in 2022 Due to Weather and Seasonal Variations

The olive harvest in Australia is coming to an end and this year is expected to be well down on last year’s bumper harvest.

The olives grow in the summer, ripen in the fall and are harvested between April and June each year. Last year, around 130,000 tons of olives were harvested.

It’s too early to say how big the 2022 harvest will be, but Australian Olive Association CEO Michael Southan has estimated the yield to be around 85-90,000 tonnes.

“It’s a bit of a mix, parts of Victoria have been good, parts of western NSW have been good as well, the Hunter Valley hasn’t had such a good year,” a- he declared.

South Australia is struggling to ensure some crops are not harvested at all while others only produced around 15% of the 2021 season.

The groves north of Adelaide had a better year than those in the south where some crops weren’t even picked because it wasn’t worth it, according to Olive South Australia chairman Michael Johnston.

The drop in production after a bumper year was expected due to the biennial nature of olive trees – that is, their tendency to alternate between larger and smaller crops each year.

However, seasonal factors also played a role.

“Some people couldn’t harvest because their groves were so wet that they couldn’t put machines on the groves, which meant they were limited to picking by hand,” Ms. Southan.

An olive tree is starting to form flower buds and will be ready to harvest next year.(ABC New England North West: Lara Webster)

While growers take into account a certain level of biennial production, some farmers try to reduce this seasonal variation.

At the Rio Vista olive grove on the Murray River plains near Mypolonga in South Australia, managing director Jared Bettio harvested a similar sized crop to last year.

He managed his groves to try to eliminate biannual turnover, and it might work.

“You have practically 180 to 200 days from when the flower bursts on an olive tree before you harvest it before it starts to affect your harvest for the following year,” Bettio said.

“You really need to remove the fruit in a timely manner to allow the tree to continue growing in extension and also to have enough energy to turn the nodes into flowers for the next season.”

Mr Bettio said his groves’ output this year was down half a ton from last year.

“This is our third year like this, so we’re getting to the point where we think we’re figuring out how to make sure we don’t get a two-year rollover,” he said.

The reduced size of the harvest has yet to affect prices and it remains to be seen whether it will have an effect on the availability of products like olive oil.

But with much of Australia’s olive oil imported from overseas, producers don’t expect the price to change much.

“I think the factory price is around $5.50 a litre,” Bettio said.

“We are still beaten in terms of cheap imports, so it is still quite difficult for an olive grower to earn a decent living.”