24 May

Olives add new dimension to economy

By Sarah Lee

OLIVES are being picked across the Broke and Hambledon Hill areas in abundance confirming this year as the biggest and best harvest yet.

Hunter Olive Association vice president Mike Wilson is very pleased with the outcome of harvest that began in February.

While it was an early start to picking this year, olives have shown a quality that will uphold the grade of the region’s table and oil olives.

According to Mr Wilson, better growing conditions and understandings about what was required from olive plantations had seen an increase in the number of groves maintained in the Singleton district.

“Because of the age that most plantations are currently at, it is starting to get to a stage where olives are worthwhile having as a crop,” explained Mr Wilson.

It was originally thought that an olive grove was less work than that of grape vines, and many people jumped on the trend around 1993 and planted olive trees.

Growers soon discovered olive trees still required nurishment, water, weed and pest control just like a vineyard.

This is on a lesser scale though and olives do produce better in dryer conditions than grapes, but the harvesting of both is an expensive operation as hand picking and machine harvesting are expensive in both the labour and machinery sectors.

Mr Wilson and his team of harvesters have been picking olives for the Hunter Boutique Olive Growers who have joined to produce both table olives and olive oils.

“There are 2-3 thousand trees on each grove which produces around five kilograms of fruit per tree,” Mr Wilson said.

In the Broke area there are seven growers and between them they have roughly 30,000 trees.

“If combined with the remainder of the Singleton region we would have about 50,000 olive trees planted,” Mr Wilson explained.

Each five kilogram of fruit gets an average of $1 per kilo based on the value of the fruit and contributes $250,000 to the Singleton economy each year.

“When processed this amounts to over a million dollars that olive farmers add to the Singleton economy,” concluded Mr Wilson.

While it has been a tough year with only half the rainfall normally expected in summer the prospects for the future are looking positive for the industry.

Mr Wilson has seen a growth in the industry for the Singleton region and forsees plenty of potential for the olive groves in the Singleton region.

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