By Suellen Jerrard,
Olive oil production in West Australia is expected to slow this year for the first time since the fledgling industry got off the ground about a decade ago.
Falls in production around the State are being attributed to the tendency for olive trees to fruit to their full potential only every second year as well as weather conditions and pruning.
The biggest falls are in the South-West where output is tipped to be as much as 50 per cent down on last year.
WA Olive Council president John Wholley said a poor fruit-set due to a warm winter seemed to have exacerbated the downturn from alternate fruiting in the South-West.
Mr Wholley said he picked 40-50kg of fruit from each tree in his Margaret River grove last year but he would be lucky to get four to five olives per tree this year. Other groves had also been hit but some were doing well.
He said it was likely production would slow across the State, if not fall.
WA last year produced an estimated 16,000 tonnes of olives and 2100 tonnes of olive oil worth about $11.5 million. Australia produced about 72,000 tonnes of olives and 12,000 tonnes of oil last year.
Moore River Olive Association president Nadia Lefroy agreed output was likely to plateau but said good management could cut the impact.
While the harvest from her family’s 100,000-tree Fini Grove, north of Gingin, was expected to be well up on last year, other major growers in the area had undertaken extensive pruning, which would decrease output.
Frankland River Olive Company general manager David Carr said extensive pruning at the company’s 160,000-tree grove at Gingin would result in a marked fall in production.
Syd Dunford, who owns a Margaret River olive grove and press, said the amount of fruit on his 7500 trees appeared to be about 30 per cent lighter than last year while the amount he was pressing for other growers was down about 50 per cent.
WA’s biggest olive grower, the Great Southern Group of Companies, said this season’s harvest in 2400ha of groves, from Gingin to the South-West, was set to meet expectations.
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