10 Dec

Olive harvest unaffected by snow in Spain

Snow falling across Spain has not harmed the olive crop in the world’s largest producer or significantly slowed the ongoing harvest, a farm union said.

Spanish television has broadcast pictures in recent days of snowbound olive pickers in southern region Andalucia, which accounts for most of Spain’s olive oil output and by itself far surpasses any other country.

Much of Spain’s olive oil, a quintessential part of the Mediterranean diet since ancient times, is bottled and reexported from Italy.

Quiliano Jaraiz, spokesman for the influential ASAJA union in Andalucia, said snow and frost did not harm olives, unlike other fruits.

“The harvest is going well. There is snow in some mountain ranges, but those are isolated cases,” he said.

Mr. Jaraiz said the main problem for farmers was depressed prices, which he ascribed to a small number of large buyers in the Spanish market.

Front-month January oil last traded at €2,010 ($2,540) per ton on the MFAO exchange, up 0.5% on the session and recovering from a recent slump to below €2,000.

MFAO is in Jaen, a province in Andalucia which produces about 500,000 tons a year, or almost as much as the whole of Italy, the world’s second largest producer.

Prices have plunged from about €4,300/ton in January 2005, which the International Olive Council (IOC) blames on increased production in newcomers to the world market.

ASAJA predicts that Spain will harvest 1.05 million tons in the crop cycle which began on Nov. 1, down from about 1.24 million in the previous campaign.

Most of the harvest is usually in by the end of February.

The IOC expects Spain to produce 1.11 million tons in 2008/09, out of a world total of 2.87 million, up from 2.63 million in 2007/08.

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