IN the 2016 harvest season in Australia, the commercial tip of producers accomplished over 90,000 tonnes of olive oil fruit, a record thus far and the 2017 looks to push the limits again.
Australia is made up of six main states: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
The olive harvest commences in March in the northern parts of Queensland and Western Australia then progressively follows south whereby NSW starts around April; Victoria in May/June; Tasmania in July; and South Australia has a diverse climate which can bring their harvest during Mid-May/June/July.
The average duration of the season is about 45 days.
Queensland… compared to 2016 harvest, this year seems to be showing a strong growth of up to 60 per cent increase in crops.
During the period of the timing of flowering to now has shown some widespread average loss of 30pc due to heat waves and where irrigation could not be kept up to the olives to salvage the crop.
However, Queensland overall is still up 30pc from last year so is still good news for Queensland producers.
Western Australia... is set for a big season and is currently on track despite flooding and bushfires.
WA has some of the largest producers in the country and the swing of a few producers can have a massive ripple effect for the WA olive producing economy.
WA seems to be a state that endures alternate bearing and this year is an “on year”.
Northern VIC... has had storms during late flowering and fruit set and it is unknown whether fruit will be affected as a result due to fungal pressure.
The rains which started before last year's harvest did reduce the cropping. So will be interesting to see what transpires.
NSW... a state which is comprised of many boutique groves with a few medium and large groves. The dynamic of groves are quite diverse.
In the Hunter Valley region, had felt the effects of a dry winter which also translated into dry summer too.
Olive Lace Bug has been very active in the region also. On the plus side, the reduction in moisture has reduced fungal pressure for this region.
Some of the states have had adverse weather during the flowering phase.
Shotberries have been reported as well which indicated poor conditions during pollination.
Overall NSW is on par with last year’s production.
In the Riverina region, fruit is abundant and definitely a year where production levels have increased substantially and varietals which are normally difficult to produce have substantial cropping.
This area has been very dry and limited amounts of irrigation have been used on an as needed basis to help prevent fruit shrivelling.
This season in the Riverina indicates this will make up for the shortfall of last season.
South Australia… in the 2016 harvest was dramatically down compared to 2015 harvest.
In the North, as an example, Jamestown usually beholds a situation whereby olives tend to not ripen because the cooler weather takes over during the ripening phase.
In the South of SA Mid-May is usually the start of the season whereby in the lead up to 2017 has been met with a wet winter and reasonable weather during flowering and fruit set.
These conditions have seen about a 30-40pc increase.
The South Australian industry estimates last year produced a total worth $900K (farmgate price).
This season South Australia is optimistic with potential looming harvest outcomes.
Tasmania... always packs a punch when it comes to championing quality.
The state usually results in Fluro green oils and polyphenol levels through the roof. Olive Oils here can fetch some of the highest prices in the country at AUD$25 for a 250mL bottle.
Some shotberries have been apparent as a result of the indication of pollination issues but overall the dry autumn, warmer winter, wet spring and cooler summer have had even less stressing indicators on the fruit but fungal pressure has been reduced as a result.
Overall Tasmania is looking at a late harvest and indicating a strong quality persuasion.
So a land which has massive ranges in diversity from no rain, to abundant winter rain, to floods, to bushfires is looking optimistic this season.
In Australia producers here are optimistic as the International pricing is very positive.
Makes the harvest worthwhile for producers from this perspective but the quality and overall increasing production levels by 30 - 40pc of the previous harvest make this an attractive situation for olive production and quality in Australia.
Hopefully, the benchmarks can be pushed even further! Let’s see what can be achieved this year.
- Amanda Bailey is the director of The Olive Centre and CEO of the Queensland Olive Council.