California Olive Oil Producers Fall Short After ‘borderline catastrophic’ Harvest

Thanks to some unusual weather in the first three months of 2018, olive harvests are down by about 25 percent, according to the California Olive Oil Council, which represents 90 percent of olive oil production in California.

Last year, the council’s members produced about 4 million gallons of extra virgin olive oil. This year, the number is expected to be about 2.8 million gallons, says Executive Director Patricia Darragh.

Olive trees are alternate bearing, so it’s not unusual to have lighter crops every other year, but in 2018, some olive growers saw no budbreak — the mark of the beginning of a growing season during which buds first appear on the trees, leading to flowers and eventually, fruit.

The situation has left many scrambling.

“We’ve all been scratching our heads since March over this,” said Jeff Martin of Frantoio Grove in Gilroy. His farm has about 3,500 Frantoio varietal olive trees, and produces olive oil for Bay Area retailers like Bi-Rite Market, Draeger’s and Market Hall Foods . This year, his trees bore “virtually no fruit.” More