France’s olive harvest this season is at risk of turning out ‘catastrophically’, the French olive growers’ association warned at its general meeting on 16 June.
A report released by the Association Française Interprofessionnelle de l’Olive (AFIDOL) projected this season’s crop to reach only 3,200 to 3,400 tonnes, far behind last year’s crop of 5,600 tonnes, according to the Olive Oil Times.
According to the report, French olive yields between 2005 and 2010 averaged at 5,200 tonnes but, in the past six years, averages have decreased 20% to 4,000 tonnes.
Additionally, the 200 litres/ha average oil yield from France’s estimated 20,000ha of olive groves lagged drastically behind Spain’s and Morocco’s averages of 800-1,000 litres/ha.
Olivier Nasles, president of AFIDOL, said when presenting the report that French olive farmers had to re-examine their production methods to tackle new challenges.
“The world is changing, people are changing, the climate is changing, and we’re not prepared,” he said.
According to the Olive Oil Times, the culprits behind the declining production were climate change, olive fly infestation, rising average age of producers and inefficient production methods.
Additionally, southern France, which holds the country’s olive oil producing Provence, Alpes and Côte d’Azur regions, suffered from drought last year, which caused the loss of the expected crop.
“It’s not just a case of planting in order to produce. You have to know how to produce and this savoir-faire has been partially lost,” said Nasles.
He claimed that, in 2014, production fell due to farmers not following FEDIOL’s recommendations on proper treatment against the olive fly, while in 2016, growers failed to follow irrigation recommendations.
“We have to move away from the attitude of ‘we’ve always done things this way’,” Nasles said, while also piling some blame on younger farmer generations who “do not want to work like their parents and grandparents did”.
Fabienne Roux, a French olive oil expert and New York International Olive Oil Competition panel leader, agreed with Nasles.
“Producers must evolve in their production techniques to achieve productivity, which is the first indispensable link in the economic profitability of the sector,” Roux told the Olive Oil Times.