Olive trees have been grown for about 6000 years and have been a major calorie source in the Mediterranean for about 3000 years - hence it was even more highly regarded than wine.
With the current global passion for healthy foods, saturated fats have become unpopular, and olives are an excellent source of mono-unsaturated fats. Olive oil reduces the risk of heart disease, and is said to prevent skin and breast cancer.
New Zealanders use twice as much olive oil as they did five years ago and we now import 20 million dollars worth of oil a year. This provides a huge incentive to produce our own olives in this country and we can produce fresh green oil that can be sold, not only in New Zealand, but in niche overseas markets during the northern hemisphere off season period. The quality of New Zealand olive oil is extremley high.
The markets for good quality olive oil are very much like those for good wines. Today many restaurents are selling bread and olive oil as an appertiser, as well as using fine olive oils in cooking and this trend is rapidly moving to the home.New Zealand brands are now appearing alongside the finest olive oils from around the world.
Olive oil is used in the production of soaps and is used extensively in the cosmetic industry.
The average yield of trees in New Zealand is about three tons per acre - at today's prices about $6000. Some of the trees in Malborough have been yielding twice that amount at about 60kg per tree or more. The Tuscan olive varieties start producing in about three years with full production in seven or eight years.
Growing olives profitably in North Canterbury
First you have to be able to grow them and quite simply everywhere is not suitable. Though olives do take minus 10-degree frosts for safe olive growing it pays to be in the region of minus 6 or 7 max winter low. There are not that many places that are that mild on the Canterbury plans or for that mater Waipara basin as many area’s can get significant winter frost that will damage ripening fruit. From Amberley Leithfield and out to the beach it seems fine any body trying to grow olives in this area has had few problems even though they are on heavy soils. The Glasniven to Waipara Broomfield and Omhi flats has all the growing heat units you could ever want but unfortunately it will get colder than –7 so you will, have problems. Waipara west Waipara downs and the north hill of Omhi where you have good frost drainage are fine.
Well the first question people seem to ask is there money in olives? Well I don’t think it has been done yet but it would also be fare to say that commercial scale (20 plus acres) olive groves are only a maximum of 7 years old or even less. And if you are growing olives in a traditional Italian way you can probably kiss well by to the first 6 or seven years anyway. If you pick your olives by hand and grow a traditional olive grove it is going to be difficult to compete with peasant. Mind you on the other had you are going to have some spectacular olive oil at home, and that is something quiet significant to the pallet, and well worth having.
To be a successful and profitable olive grove you have to plane not to do any work
It all has to be done with the minimum of imputes. Roundup grape harvester, and hedge trimmers the bare minimum of pest spraying if at all and very intensive so you get quick and early returns and good profitable returns. You can’t afford to wait for 7 years. But no body is doing that yet, most people are aiming to have a pretty olive grove that is manicured and well mown and there is nothing wrong with that, but I’m not sure how profitable it will be .The olive industry has just begun and there is every reason why we will be better than the traditional Europeans.
For more information on general olives visit
Olives Australia or California Olive Oil News