Has Spain’s olive oil turn out to be a luxurious merchandise? – DW – 12/08/2023 | EUROtoday

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The actual stress for Spain’s olive tree begins in autumn. Olive groves can tolerate lengthy durations of drought from April to September and sudden frosts in November.

But if bushes lose their fruit between October and February, attributable to sturdy shaking by the harvesting machine and are pruned straight, “then they suffer,” Ruben Gomez, who manages manufacturing and harvest at Garcia de la Cruz agricultural agency, advised DW.

“So far they have been allowed to rest for a year, but that will change soon,” he added.

Harvesting is at the moment underway on his rocky plantation close to Toledo, southwest of the Spanish capital, Madrid. Here, not like within the olive mecca of Jaen in southern Andalusia, the soil is just not a gorgeous reddish brown, however relatively a boring grey.

Gomez’s folks have been lively within the subject for the reason that starting of October. A tractor with a particular machine grabs every tree trunk and shakes it, on the identical time males hit the branches with lengthy sticks.

Depending on the diploma of ripeness, inexperienced, pink or black olives rain down on the black web stretched out beneath the tree.

“It is an enormous stress for the tree. The vibration should therefore not last longer than 15 seconds and the hitting should be done carefully,” explains Gomez.

The olives are shaken off with vibrations created by a tractor, as pictured at this farm in Andalucia, Spain
During harvest, a tractor vibrates the olive tree, shaking off the olivesImage: Stefanie Müller/DW

The drought and its penalties

As a rule, every tree produces round 40 kilos (88 kilos) of fruit. However, a historic drought in some areas of Spain is resulting in very poor harvests in lots of areas.

The olive tree does not want an excessive amount of water, however throughout flowering in May, it may’t stand an excessive amount of warmth. Last summer season, that’s precisely what occurred, sparking a skyrocketing in costs for olive oil in current months.

Garcia de la Cruz, then again, is among the few producers in Spain who’ve ensured their bushes bear fruit yearly, due to a delicate harvesting method and the partial irrigation of their plantation.

Around 1 / 4 of the plantation is now artificially irrigated, with probes measuring precisely when and the way a lot water the tree wants.

What makes Spanish olive oil so particular?

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Spain units olive oil worth

The Spanish’s experience in rising, and squeezing olive juice is now in world demand. Spain’s olive oil continues to be thought of the most effective — and the nation produces the biggest quantity.

World market costs are determined within the olive mecca of Jaen, the place the whole panorama is roofed with olive groves. The producer worth there may be at the moment round €8 ($6.63) a liter. In the shop, a bottle of olive oil prices a full €10 — greater than double what it was two years in the past.

“Despite this [price increase]demand on the global market remains high,” mentioned Gomez, who sees an unlimited alternative within the present state of affairs.

Spain has not solely arrange olive plantations of their profitable varieties within the United States, however can be supplying tons of unpackaged olive oil to their most important competitor Italy.

Some business specialists suppose the rise in exports, now as much as half of Spain’s olive oil goes abroad, has led to larger costs for home shoppers.

“Spain should therefore manage its supply chain itself,” Antonio Canadilla, president of the Cooperativa San Sebastian-Aceites Umbrion cooperative, advised DW.

He famous that the Italians are promoting Spanish oil beneath their very own manufacturers, so many shoppers now imagine that the Italians and not the Spanish are the market leaders within the olive enterprise.

“But despite this, none of our comrades want to invest in marketing and sales,” he added.

Olive and sunflower oil bottles are displayed for sale, protected by a padlock and a chain to prevent theft in a supermarket in Malaga, Spain, October 23, 2023
In Europe, the worth of olive oil has reached €10 ($10.78) a bottleImage: Jon Nazca/REUTERS

Olive oil: a brand new luxurious merchandise

Another downside is that Spain’s system of agricultural cooperatives is commonly characterised by outdated enterprise constructions. They nonetheless management 80% of the market.

Despite only a few ladies being concerned within the olive oil market, García de la Cruz is a little bit of a trailblazer. The firm was based 150 years in the past by a girl and is among the few olive oil producers in Spain that fully controls its provide chain, guaranteeing not solely excessive margins but additionally extra aggressive costs.

The agency exports virtually all of its manufacturing to Japan and the US, the place liter bottles have been bought for years at twice the worth as at dwelling.

In distinction, over the previous two years, crop failures and structural issues in Spain’s olive market have now exacerbated inflation throughout the Spanish meals chain, so olive oil has turn out to be a luxurious merchandise.

According to a examine by the Autonomous University of Madrid, meals costs in Spain rose by 15.7% final yr. This yr, the inflation fee stays at roughly the identical degree.

As a consequence, Spaniards are already altering their shopping for decisions and the cooperative Canadilla predicts that consumption of olive oil nationally will fall by 38% this yr alone.

Outdated gross sales construction

Economist Rafael Pampillon from the Madrid University of San Pablo CEU is satisfied that hypothesis within the home market helps costs larger.

“But it is also a fact that olive oil in France and Portugal is significantly cheaper than here,” he advised DW.

While the local weather could also be higher in these two nations, demand in Spain has all the time been excessive because the Spanish see olive oil not as a gourmand product, however as a staple meals.

To cut back worth pressures, some grocery chains such because the Galician Froiz or Mercadona have stepped up imports of cheaper olive oil from Portugal. But they’ll solely do that due to already established buying channels in Portugal, Pampollon mentioned.

“Supply chains cannot simply be changed overnight; that costs a lot of money,” he advised DW, including that he doesn’t see meals costs in Spain falling anytime quickly.

An academic shows the difference between olives grown with their patented irrigation system (R), which infiltrates water straight to the roots to prevent the olive trees from withering, and without the infiltrator (L), in Baena, near Cordoba, Spain, on August 30, 2023
On the correct, olives grown with a patented irrigation system that directs water on to the roots to stop the olive bushes from wilting, and people with out an infiltrator (left)Image: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Waiting for 2025

The olive tree stays a super shrub for Spain, despite the fact that the nation’s panorama is affected by local weather change.

“The olive tree only needs rainwater and can endure droughts,” Jose Maria Tarujuelo Martin-Benito, director of the Water Institute of Castile-La Mancha, told DW. “There are bushes which have been in Spain for a number of hundred years.”

He believes that Spain’s rural water shortages may be solved by means of know-how and subsequently no discount in olive manufacturing is important. He is engaged on options to spice up productiveness with out additional polluting the atmosphere.

Enrique García-Tenorio, founding father of the Denomination of Origin (DO) for olive oil from the Montes de Toledo space predicts that costs will come down in 2025, serving to to stabilize the home market.

He advised DW {that a} liter of olive oil would then value between €3-4 euros within the retailer.

This article was initially printed in German.