A new trend is changing the olive industry in the north state, now it’s all about the oil olives and the expensive liquid gold they produce.
In the olive city, there’s a new boom surrounding the fruit, Vice President of Crane Mills Brian Crane says, “The olive oil industry is what wine was decades ago.”
Several olive growers, including Crane Mills in Corning, are starting up new oil olive crops and building processing plants to produce olive oil.
Crane says, “With any new venture people are hopping on board just like we did, but there’s a potential to be over plantings.”
Crane just planted 200 acres of the oil olives, or Spanish Arbequinas.
Processor owner Ray Rogers of Corning Olive Oil Company believes the value of the olive oil he produces will decline as more businesses jump into the oil market.
He says, “It’s going to hurt us, they can sell oil for $18 a gallon, where I can hardly make it for $18 a gallon.”
That’s because picking and producing the oil olives is much cheaper than traditional hand-picked olives.
Oil olives can be mechanically picked for around $30 dollars a ton, Rogers spends close to $500 a ton getting his olives.
Rogers says, “I have mixed emotions about it because they’re planting so many.”
While it could eventually hit the profits of smaller processors like Rogers, the new oil olive growers aren’t reaping the benefits yet.
So far it hasn’t been profitable for Crane Mills, but they also didn’t expect it to be.
And they hope people get choosy about their olive oil, and use only California olive oils, which must meet a much higher standard than imports.