25 May 2015

Olive harvest underway

4:36 pm on 25 May 2015

The olive industry is welcoming a new processing plant opened in Wairarapa over the weekend.

Olives

Photo: 123rf

The Olive Press in Greytown was opened by Primary Industries minister Nathan Guy yesterday, and was expected to be busy over the coming months as growers in Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay prepared to begin the olive harvest.

When we spoke to Olive New Zealand's president Andrew Taylor he was overlooking snow in Napier this morning, which he said was unlikely to affect the trees.

Mr Taylor said despite a tough flowering time over spring, for the most part, the weather had been good for the olive season.

He was expecting exceptionally good fruit and oil yeild from trees, putting the new press to good use.

"The Olive Press organisation has provided a cohesion point and facilitated an economy of scale in the processing of olives that other regions haven't been able to emulate.

"And so the growers in the Wairarapa region have been able to have the benefit of a good sized operation there to get economies in their processing and to get their processing done in a timely manner, because the machinery is of a sensible commercial size."

Mr Taylor said last season was the biggest ever for olive production in Wairarapa, and a smaller crop was expected this year.

"But last year was also a watershed for Wairarapa, hence a new facility this year and in anticipation of more cohesion in the coming years."

Meanwhile, olive harvests in the wider Auckland region were coming to an end, and an olive oil processor there says it hasn't been a good year.

Greg Scopas processes olive oil just west of Wellsford.

He said his company Salumeria Fontana had only processed a fifth of the amount of olives it did last year.

"We harvested our place about a week ago and it was a bit disappointing. It's been a bad year for the birds, so we would normally have got, I would say, five times what we just took this year.

"Having said that, the oil that we've made has been very nice. Not as strong as last year. The yields seem quite good, so there are some positives in there, for sure."

Mr Scopas said his company processed olives from 40 to 50 farms this year. In a normal year, it would go close to a hundred.

"Properties that a capable of producing 20 tonnes of olives would be lucky to have produced two or three. That's how radical the difference can be from one year to the next."

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