Optimism Abounds in Argentina Olive Sector

Olive oil production is expected to grow by as much as 20 percent by 2019.

Olive oil production doubled and exports grew by 155 percent in Argentina last year. Producers and government officials had expected a bullish year, but this level of growth exceeded their expectations.

“Last year we had an excellent situation,” Frankie Gobbee, the co-founder and director of the Argentina Olive Group (AOG), told Olive Oil Times. He believes there was a perfect storm that allowed producers to enter new export markets and sell their oil for prices that were higher than normal.

“We produced a very high volume of olive oil in Argentina and received good prices as well,” Gobbee said. “The Euro was also very high and all the major production countries [such as Spain and Italy] produced lower volumes. These conditions gave us a very excellent price for our oil and good opportunities to supply a lot of new international accounts.”

Production in Argentina grew to a record-high 37,500 tons, of which more than 98 percent was virgin or extra virgin olive oil. Argentina has become the largest producer of olive oil in the Americas and the eighth largest producer in the world.

Francisco Corredoira, president of the Catamarqueña Olive Association (Asolcat), attributed the increased output to technological advancements and better growing techniques.

“Today, olives destined for the production of oil have to be machine-harvested, in order to be profitable,” he said. Traditionally, producers could only grow 250 trees per acre, which were harvested by hand. Now that figure has risen to 865 trees per acre.

Exports by volume also grew also to 30,000 tons and were outpaced by their growth in value, which reached US$152 million (AUD$201million).

Néstor Roulet, the secretary of added value at the Argentinian Ministry of Agroindustries, said that the olive sector has been growing since 2016 and its most recent growth has been partially stimulated by government reforms.

“Since 2016 there has been a positive change in the foreign trade of the regional economies, after five years of consecutive falls,” Roulet told Olive Oil Times. “In 2017 this trend is being strengthened, accompanied by the implementation of national programs and tools that collaborate in the development of a more competitive olive industry.”

Roulet is referring to measures by the government, which loosened strict currency controls on trading in United States dollars, and measures enacted by his branch of the Ministry of Agroindustries. The Added Value Secretariat has introduced a number of initiatives to help improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized producers and differentiate Argentine agricultural products from their competitors.

Among the programs that were created by the Secretariat last year was a “Made in Argentina” initiative to promote agricultural products abroad; a program to increase organic farming and production methods, and plans to institute a protected designation of origin program similar to that of Italy. More