Producers in Israel Reap Benefits of Record Harvest

Despite rising production costs and persistent challenges from imports, Israeli olive oil producers anticipate a bumper harvest and improved market share.

Lahav in organic, Fair Trade olive grove in Deir Hana
Dec. 12, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Lahav in organic, Fair Trade olive grove in Deir Hana

Israeli olive grow­ers are cel­e­brat­ing a grat­i­fy­ing olive har­vest, with abun­dant fruits on the trees and sat­is­fy­ing lev­els of oil accu­mu­la­tion.

The olive oil sea­son in Israel is now at its peak,” Ehud Soriano, an inter­na­tional olive oil pan­elist and con­sul­tant for Sindyanna of Galilee, told Olive Oil Times.

We expect a record year for both olives and olive oil… So far (the har­vest) is beyond our expec­ta­tions for both quan­tity and qual­ity.- Ehud Soriano, olive oil con­sul­tant

The yield is high, and we expect a record year for both olives and olive oil,” he added. After two years of low yields, we expected this sea­son to be much bet­ter. So far, it is beyond our expec­ta­tions for both quan­tity and qual­ity.”

Many local grow­ers resorted to a late har­vest to wait for the fruit to ripen, which came later than the pre­vi­ous year.

See Also:2022 Harvest Updates

Last sea­son, we had an alter­nate bear­ing off-sea­son, which means that we did not have many fruits on the branches,” Nimrod Azulay, co-owner in charge of pro­duc­tion and sales at KeremZait, told Olive Oil Times.

And then we had quite a cold win­ter, which gave the trees the amount of cold they need, plus we had quite a humid grow­ing sea­son,” the award-win­ning pro­ducer added.

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People have been har­vest­ing later than their usual sched­ule,” he con­tin­ued. It is a long har­vest sea­son this year, and all olive grow­ers I know and spoke with are quite sat­is­fied with the results.”

We went for a late har­vest,” Azulay said. We start har­vest­ing in mid-October and have usu­ally com­pleted it and milled the olives by the end of the month. However, the sea­son moved back three weeks this year, to say the least.”

While Israel is among the coun­tries on the east­ern end of the Mediterranean basin cel­e­brat­ing a fruit­ful har­vest in 2022, rel­e­vant chal­lenges remain for pro­duc­ers.

Life in the Middle East is always demand­ing,” Hadas Lahav, co-founder and chief exec­u­tive of Sindyanna of Galilee, told Olive Oil Times.

The local olive grow­ing com­mu­nity in Israel faces two urgent chal­lenges,” she added. The first is how to con­vert their groves to sus­tain­able farm­ing. The sec­ond is how to over­come the takeover of indus­try and build­ing on their shrink­ing agri­cul­tural lands.”

She empha­sized the rel­e­vance of installing advanced irri­ga­tion sys­tems and using mod­ern agro­nomic prac­tices to fos­ter sus­tain­abil­ity among local grow­ers.

On the other hand, the olive oil sec­tor is where econ­omy and cul­tures inte­grate most suc­cess­fully,” she said. Arabs, Jews, Israelis and Palestinians all come together with the joy and tired­ness of har­vest days.”

Lahav added that the har­vest’s mul­ti­cul­tural envi­ron­ment makes Sindyanna unique. Sindyanna uses the har­vest to bring peo­ple together,” she said.

Among its activ­i­ties, Sindyanna helps Arab farm­ers cer­tify their olives as organic and Fair Trade. The com­pany also helps them sell their olive oil in the local and inter­na­tional mar­kets.

Sindyanna also pur­chases organic olive oil from Palestinian farm­ers in the West Bank,” Lahav said. We are proud of our mod­est con­tri­bu­tion to strength­en­ing the Palestinian econ­omy and to cre­at­ing the hope of nor­mal life and coop­er­a­tion between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

Still, olive oil pro­duc­ers in Israel have had to cope with ris­ing energy costs and a greater need for irri­ga­tion, which also trans­lates into higher costs.

We have been think­ing a lot about expand­ing our pro­duc­tion area, but it is not an easy task,” Azulay said. It is very expen­sive to grow trees, and water for agri­cul­ture is pricey as it is labor and fer­til­izer. These con­di­tions make it dif­fi­cult to be prof­itable.”

Due to the scarcity of water in Israel, which the World Resource Institute lists as the sec­ond most water-stressed coun­try on Earth, irri­ga­tion is becom­ing increas­ingly nec­es­sary for olive farm­ers,

With cli­mate change, includ­ing the long drought south­ern Europe suf­fered last sum­mer, there are no more doubts about the value of imple­ment­ing and using irri­ga­tion sys­tems in olive groves,” Soriano said.

To this end, Sindyanna is part of Artolio, an inter­na­tional project to assist olive grow­ers in the Mediterranean bas­in’s rural areas.

The fun­da­men­tal step for­ward of the farm­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in Artolio is to imple­ment irri­ga­tion,” Soriano said. Without it, the olive oil sec­tor in our region, as well as in other areas around the Mediterranean Sea, does not have a bright future.”

As a result of ris­ing costs for every­thing from irri­ga­tion to fuel, olive oil prices in Israel are increas­ing sim­i­larly to other parts of the world.

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Olive groves in KeremZait.

We had to increase prices 23 per­cent,” Azulay said. It is inevitable as pro­duc­tion costs rise, but it is also a dif­fi­cult choice, as your prod­uct will not reach every­one.”

He added that rais­ing prices also hurts the com­pet­i­tive­ness of Israeli olive oil on the domes­tic mar­ket since imported olive oils are often far cheaper. The con­sumers get used to low prices,” Azulay said.

Recently, one of the coun­try’s largest food retail­ers said olive oil bot­tles sold for a short period at only 11.50 shekels (€3.50) quickly achieved 81 per­cent of the local mar­ket share.

Meanwhile, Israeli olive oil brands are often sold for two to three times as much, with some pro­duc­ers care­fully cal­cu­lat­ing their abil­ity to reduce profit mar­gins to com­pete.

Educating con­sumers about olive oil qual­ity also remains a chal­lenge in Israel. Like every­where else, super­mar­kets sell non-vir­gin olive oil for far lower prices than Israeli extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers can sell their prod­ucts.

Still, things are chang­ing. There has been a big leap for­ward in recent years regard­ing agro­nomic prac­tices and bet­ter aware­ness about olive oil qual­ity,” Soriano said.

According to the International Olive Council, olive oil con­sump­tion in Israel has risen con­sis­tently in the last decade.

The good news in this con­text is that olive oil con­sump­tion in Israel is grow­ing and in a cer­tain way that boosts ques­tions about and aware­ness of olive oil qual­ity,” Azulay con­cluded. That is why the out­look remains good for extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers.”



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