Olive trees near Lovers' Rock in Antequera. / antonio j. guerrero

Malaga’s olive harvest is expected to be down 25 per cent due to the lack of water

In Jaén province, the main olive production area in Andalucía, the harvest is expected to be 50% lower than usual

MATÍAS STUBER

Olive growers in Malaga province expect this year’s harvest to be about 25% lower than last year, because of the lack of rain and the heatwaves. Not only that: when olive trees don’t receive as much water as they need, the olives are smaller, with a lower percentage of flesh compared with stone, and they start to wrinkle.

Agricultural associations agree that this is a difficult situation, but in fact Malaga province is not suffering as badly as some. Baldomero Bellido, the president of the Asaja young farmers’ association, told SUR that the heavy rainfall in the province in the spring has helped to alleviate the problem to a certain extent, whereas in Jaén province, the biggest olive production area in Andalucía, the harvest is expected to be 50% lower than usual.

The drought has also stopped farmers taking measures to correct the problem. If the wells had been full they could have set up drip irrigation so the olives grew to the right size, but this has not been possible. The only thing that could save the harvest would be heavy rain in September, but meteorologists are not expecting the drought to end until at least late October.

“It has been a dry and pretty hot year and the olive trees are suffering from major hydric stress. Nationally, the harvest is expected to be down by 30%, and between 20 and 25% here in Malaga. If it rains, there is still time for the olives to grow, but the ones used for eating instead of oil can’t be picked if they are not big enough or their quality is poor,” said Esteban Carnaros, Corporate Relations director of the Dcoop cooperative.

Last year 57,413 tonnes of olives were picked in Malaga province, according to official figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, and in the whole of Spain about 1.5 million tonnes were harvested. Even if it rains, it will be impossible to match those figures this year, and therefore a rise in price can also be expected.