While olive trees grow, oil production does not in Egypt.

After a cold win­ter fol­lowed by a hot grow­ing sea­son, Egypt is expect­ing low returns in terms of its olive oil pro­duc­tion. However, the pos­si­bil­ity of a late surge for cer­tain cul­ti­vars remains.

The fore­cast comes as Egypt, the world’s second-​largest table olive pro­ducer, is in the midst of plant­ing 100 mil­lion olive trees by the end of next year.

Expectations in pro­duc­tion of oil will prob­a­bly drop for the begin­ning of the olive oil sea­son but will likely pick up towards the end with the late vari­eties such as Coratina.- Roba Ashraf, Wadi Food

“The win­ter was colder than usual. Many cold hours affected the nat­ural devel­op­ment of flow­ers and delayed the bloom­ing sea­son by at least 15 days for most vari­eties,” Roba Ashraf of Wadi Food, one of the country’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ers, said. “However, the ver­nal­iza­tion was so intense that the trees had more flower buds than the pre­vi­ous years.”

“The oil olive vari­eties pro­duced more fruits than the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons,” Ahraf added. “However, due to hot weather con­di­tions, some olives are ripen­ing too fast and are being har­vested before reach­ing the high­est lev­els of oil con­tent. Expectations in pro­duc­tion of oil will prob­a­bly drop for the begin­ning of the olive oil sea­son but will likely pick up towards the end with the late vari­eties such as Coratina.”

See more: 2019 Harvest News

Mild win­ters are best for the types of cul­ti­vars that thrive in Egypt – namely Picual, Manzanilla, Kalamata, Frantoio and Arbequina, among oth­ers.

In 2018, Egypt pro­duced 20,000 tons of olive oil, a large decrease from the two pre­vi­ous years, in which the coun­try pro­duced a record-​setting 30,000 tons (2016) and 28,000 tons (2017).

Prior to the start of the 2018 har­vest year, Egypt rejoined the International Olive Council, bring­ing its pro­duc­tion pro­ce­dures in line with the rest of the olive oil-​producing world.

Later that year, Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Ezz el Din Abu Steit, said the coun­try would invest in plant­ing olive trees on desert lands, with the goal of becom­ing one of “the top seven coun­tries in olive oil pro­duc­tion.”

However, it will take more than plant­ing mil­lions of olive trees to boost Egypt’s pro­duc­tion, Ashraf said, with weather events, resource costs and lags in infra­struc­ture as the pri­mary obsta­cles.

“The main obsta­cle that we will face is the cost of pro­duc­tion cou­pled with the costs of har­vest­ing while mech­a­niza­tion of the dif­fer­ent oper­a­tions is not well devel­oped in Egypt,” Ashraf said. “Irrigation is 100 per­cent in most olive groves in Egypt and the cost of water is increas­ing rapidly. Labor is also a lim­it­ing fac­tor as the har­vest sea­son coin­cides with many other crops that bring bet­ter returns such as pome­gran­ates and cit­rus.”

Ashraf said Wadi Food and other pro­duc­ers are wel­com­ing the invest­ment from the gov­ern­ment because it will help best the country’s pro­file beyond just that of a table olive pro­ducer.

Awards help boost its rep­u­ta­tion, too, such as the Silver that Wadi Foods won at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition for its Picual.

As more Egyptian olive oils are shared with the global com­mu­nity, it will help buck the trend of olive oils from the coun­try being blended with other oils by large inter­na­tional com­pa­nies.

The best thing that could hap­pen for Egyptian olive oil pro­duc­ers, Ashraf said, is for con­sumers in the coun­try to be rein­tro­duced to the qual­ity of the local prod­uct.

“Historically, the ancient Egyptians knew and used olive oil in their diet but also to illu­mi­nate their tem­ples and as an ingre­di­ent of mum­mi­fi­ca­tion,” Ashraf said. “Since then, olive oil was redis­cov­ered recently with the new health trends in liv­ing as well as newly adopted culi­nary habits. This change has made the Egyptian con­sumer aware of the ben­e­fits as well as the qual­ity attrib­utes of the local olive oil.”


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