South African olive industry set to grow

13 March 2013

South Africa’s olive industry has enjoyed a recent growth spurt and has the potential to expand even further following a 50% slowdown in Spanish production, says Pam Golding Properties manager in the Karoo region, Wayne Rubidge.

“In fact, olive farming is one of the fastest growing activities in South Africa’s agricultural sector,” Rubidge said in a statement.

Demand from foreign markets is causing an upward swing in production due to low European production and the quality of South African olive oil;import tariffs are also expected to boost local olive oil production.

“About 68% of South Africa’s olive consumption comes from mostly inferior European products, and with the general world shortage, the olive index is up by a massive 50%,” he said.

The country generally has small olive oil consumption patterns, despite its long tradition of olive growing. According to Rubidge, the country’s first olives were produced by Jan van Riebeeck at Boschheuwel in 1661, with the first commercial olives seen about 200 years later.

“In contrast to traditional olive oil consuming countries, where per capita consumption of olive oil ranges between 12 to 36 litres, the average South African consumes a mere 80 millilitres – 0.08 litres – per annum,” he said.

“This highlights the tremendous opportunity for growth and expansion in this country.”

The primary olive producing areas in South Africa are in the Karoo region of the Western Cape, which boasts favourable conditions and climate for olive growing with winter rainfall and a dry summer.

The interests of the country’s olive growers, olive oil producers, table olive producers and olive tree nurseries are represented by the South African Olive Industry Association.

“The total South African consumption is approximately 65-million, of which local production is currently less than 32%,” Rubidge said.

“Local production is solely extra virgin at present [and] local production of table olives is estimated at 3 000 tonnes per annum while 2 000 tonnes are imported annually – 40%.

“Considering these statistics, there is no doubt that this farming sector offers significant potential for growth,” he said.

SAinfo reporter