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Australian Olive Growers Begin Harvest With Mixed Expectations

A light crop year is expected to lead to a limited supply and higher prices.

Due to low crop yields, some Australian growers have started harvesting earlier. However, others have reported more favorable outcomes and are planning to begin picking their olives in April.

Michael Southan, the chief executive of the Australian Olive Association, confirmed that the harvest will be slightly down from last year.

“In some areas, flowering was good, but the fruit set was not so good,” he told Olive Oil Times. “The large groves look like they will have expected yields.”

“The main challenges will be the perennial ones of having the availability of contract harvesters for the smaller groves and contract processors,” he added.

Amanda Bailey, a committee member of the Australian Olive Oil Association, confirmed that some producers were affected by adverse weather conditions during flowering, fluctuations in temperature and other environmental variables.

She said this had reduced crops across many of Australia’s olive-growing regions. The Australian Olive Oil Association estimated production at 18 to 19 million litres in the previous crop year.

“The challenge of a light crop year in Australia extends beyond the immediate impact on fruit production,” Bailey said. “It also has significant implications for other sectors, notably the bulk industry that drives export supply and food service.”

According to data from the International Olive Council, Australia exported 2,000 tons of olive oil in the 2022-23 crop year, a second-consecutive decline from the country’s record high of 4,000 tons in 2020-21.

“Due to a light crop year in Australia, some producers have already started their harvesting machines and commenced processing the initial lots of fruit,” Bailey said.

She pointed out that the scarcity of fruit yields translates into supply and demand issues, creating a domino effect across markets.

“As a result of the reduced fruit supply, in Australia, there is virtually no bulk olive oil supply available, leading to a further imbalance between supply and demand,” Bailey said.

“Consequently, we expect higher prices to persist as producers grapple with the diminished availability of olive oil.”

“The repercussions of the light crop year reverberate, and in response, producers are taking this time to evaluate pruning strategies to enhance tree resilience for future crops,” Bailey added.

She said this year’s reduced crop, coming off a few bumper harvests, represented opposite ends of the spectrum regarding production; both scenarios have significant implications for producers, markets and consumers.      

"Bumper crop years result in increased supply, lower prices and economic stimulation, whereas light crop years lead to reduced yields, higher prices and financial challenges for producers," Bailey said. "It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds. Producers need to ensure that their oil can be stretched as far as possible throughout supply chains to gain maximum return." More