One of the advantages of our winter break is of course that we can stay as long in our bed as we want, or rather as long as Sam allows us to do so. However, these days when it gets light – around 08.00 – there is this very vague background noise that we know from the past and wakes us up. Right, the olive harvest has started. At this moment still quite limited as the picking season, roughly from the beginning of December to the end of January, has its peak in a few weeks. The gamble that the farmers take is either pick them now, a bit green with less oil in them but still hanging on the trees or wait a bit let them color, develop more oil but run the risk that a storm blows them from the trees and you have to pick them all up from the ground.
Antonio, just back from his apple picking campaign in France, has started with a few trees that had already quite black fruits and neighbor Francisco was spreading out his nets yesterday morning, ready for takeoff. What to expect from this year’s harvest? Being one of the main sources of income for the village this question is discussed widely whenever the men meet. We hear quite different expectations. Yes, there are many olives in the trees, that’s what we see as well, but they seem to be a bit Seco (dry) this year as we hardly had any rain in October or November. Seco might lead to less oil in the olives. If I understand the guys around here correctly positive factors were favorable weather conditions, namely heavy rainfall, good temperatures during flowering, a good level of water stress, and no severe winter frosts.
Late last month the Andalusian government released its forecast that Andalusia would make more than 1.3 million tons of olive oil in 2013/14 and Spain about 1.6 million tons – figures some agricultural unions directly said were too optimistic. According to the same figures its own output will come from an expected – and imminent – harvest of 6.2 million tons of olives, meaning a yield of about 21 percent. Given this, the outlook for the Spanish national harvest is a drop of just 0.3 percent in the 2011/12 all-time record of just over 1.6 million tons of olive oil.
But the big difference, according to the farmer union UPA, is that after a dismal harvest last season, this time Spain starts off with olive oil stocks of just 302,663 tons, less than half its 2011/12 carryover of 692,500 tons.“That means the same harvest, but less olive oil on the market,” said a UPA spokesman who also stressed that if it did not rain soon, production could be up to 10 percent lower than forecasted.
Looking at the weather forecast we won’t have any rain for the next two weeks, so we might sleep a bit longer, but the villagers might be losing sleep over it. Let’s hope the tide turns soon.