Olive trees have become scarce in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
olive trees

Bad times for those who want to plant olive trees in Spain. The olive tree has become scarce. Nurseries already have waiting lists and reservations until 2025. There are several reasons for the scarcity.

“There are simply no more olive trees,” several nurseries assure the specialised portal Efeagro. Some of them even have to suspend sales until October. The cause of the scarcity is a combination of several factors. The variety most affected by the scarcity is the picual, which is mainly used in intensive irrigation cultivation.

A major reason for the scarcity is the very high demand for olive tree seedlings due to the high price of olive oil. But also, the drop in the prices of other products, such as almonds, pistachios.

Investment

In addition to the scarcity, the sharp increase in intensive investment in olive groves has played an important role in recent times. Especially when you consider that olive trees are planted at the beginning of spring. Furthermore, it takes several years before they bear their first fruits. On the other hand, many landowners have taken advantage of the record-high prices for olive oil from a year and a half ago until now to try to extract more profit from their land.

 Increased demand and intensive system

The increased demand for intensive olive groves is mainly due to a change in mindset among the main actors in the sector. For them, the profitability and productivity of their land is of paramount importance.

Cogesa Expats

This is exactly what makes it difficult for the traditional olive grove to differentiate itself from the intensive ones. The first one needs rain to survive and produce, and the price there is around €4.5/kg. 

In contrast, the intensive system can be carried out by planting olive trees in hedges that can be irrigated. These start producing within about five years -once they have reached the right size-. The price is a lot lower: less than €1/kg.

31% of olive groves are irrigated

The latest survey of crops and yields in Spain indicates that there was a total of 2.78 million hectares of olive groves in 2023. Two million need rain, while about 850,000 olive groves are irrigated.

These figures only confirm the trend of the last decade. This showed irrigated olive groves have significantly increased their presence in Spain, from 24% to the current 31%.

In an attempt to solve the problem, Rafael Sánchez de Puerta, president of the Sectoral Council for Olive Oil of the Spanish Agricultural Cooperatives, affirms that this modernisation “was foreseeable.” The process of accelerated planting of hedge olive groves has been carried out in “areas where there is water due to their simple mechanisation”.

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