Growers expecting another down year for Central Coast olive oil harvest

Nov 18, 2014

Credit Flickr member Stew Dean

Reports out of Europe say this year's olive oil harvest is falling short, which will likely lead to higher prices at the grocery store.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Spain—the world's largest olive oil producer—is expecting output this year to drop by more than 50 percent.  The low yield is the result of several factors, including weather, tree stress, and insects the report states.

The outlook doesn't look much better for the local olive oil harvest on California's Central Coast, and the California Olive Oil Council says statewide production numbers will likely suffer this year as well.

In northern San Luis Obispo County—a major stronghold for California artisanal olive oil producers—this could be the second consecutive year with a low crop yield.

At Olio Nuevo in Templeton owner Art Kishiyama says his harvest is down 90 percent this year. He says the drought and hot winds that hit during spring flowering could be partially to blame.

"In my case, my trees are extremely healthy, they're simply not producing fruit," said Kishiyama. "That maybe is the tree itself hunkering down for survivability knowing full well there's not enough moisture, so it's preserving itself by not producing fruit."

Kishiyama says this is the first time he's ever seen one bad year followed by another.

Clotilde Julien of Olea Farm says she believes a freeze in early December last year likely set the trees into survival mode. She says most local growers irrigate, so the drought may have little to do with it. Julien says her crop this year is below normal, but better than last year—and she says the quality is better because of the stressed conditions.

Official regional and statewide harvest totals are not yet available.