One-Third of Global Olive Oil Production Comes from Intensive Farming

A small fraction of the world’s olive-growing surface produces more than one-third of all olive oil due to the immense yields of super-high density groves. According to experts, the share of olive oil produced by super-high-density groves is likely to grow.

A report published by the Spanish tree nursery company Agromillora said approximately 3% of the olive-growing hectares in the world are super-high-density groves. Still, their yield has grown to 36% of the global olive oil production.

Super-high-density groves, also known as hedge olive orchards, comprise about 1,600 olive trees per hectare. Trees are planted approximately one meter apart in rows 3 to 4 meters wide. Their management is entirely mechanized.

According to the study by Juan Vilar Strategic Consultants, 11.6 million hectares of olive groves are spread across 66 countries. Of these, 400,000hectares are super high density.

According to Agromillora, this approach allows greater productivity and lower workforce costs due to the high mechanization, early entry into production and efficient harvesting.

Due to their dependence on water availability and mostly flat landscapes, not all groves can be planted with this approach. Where possible, growers can adopt specific cultivars which have been shown to offer the best results in such an environment, such as Arbosana, Koroneiki or Manzanilla.

According to Agromillora, harvesting a hectare of super-high-density olive trees requires one or two hours at most, with harvesting costs reduced to €0.03 to €0.06 per kilogram of olives.

“This type of harvest allows the olive to be harvested at the correct state of maturation and a quick delivery of the fruits to the mill for transformation, reducing the deterioration that they may suffer and the possible undesirable flavors or aromas in the oil,” the company said.

Employing 44,000 workers remunerated with €90 million per annum, investment in super-high density groves reaches approximately €7 billion, with an average turnover per harvest of around €2 billion, about 15% of average global revenues.

The report said super-high-density groves generate about €450 million per annum in terms of tax revenue and investment in the local economy. More