Australian Olive Industry Survey: Highlights & Insights ~ Part 1

About the Survey 2016

The survey was conducted to help all in the Australian Olive Industry understand opportunities and challenges currently facing the industry and to relay the data in a manner which will help the Industry progress. The survey results will be used to better support producers and growers and to educate the buying public.

Survey questions were developed in consultation with researchers, producers, olive industry bodies and commercial entities to ensure a balanced perspective and representation, with the aim of providing useful information for the entire olive industry.

The Olive Centre believes this is Australia’s first comprehensive independent olive industry survey and is the largest collation of data obtained directly from the Olive industry to date. For the full report on the survey, all charts and tables were generated as percentages directly from the raw data collated, and comments were copied verbatim and unedited. The Olive Centre received no monetary payment for conducting, collating, and reporting the survey and survey results presented herein.  The Olive Centre maintains no conflicts of interest.

An Overview of Highlights and Insights

The Olive Centre gathered a range of data on the Australian olive and olive oil sectors from small, medium and large-scale companies in a survey conducted in 2016. This industry survey attracted participation from just over 70% of olive and olive oil producer companies (based on production level, not including Boundary Bend), research scientists, industry bodies, commercial entities, and other members of the sector. While Boundary Bend did not participate, official figures from the company’s September 2016 annual report were included in the survey findings to present a complete the picture of the Australian olive industry.

The Australian Olive Industry was estimated to be worth $210 million in 2016. It comprised more than 1,500 olive growing operations and approximately 10 million olive trees. Around 90% of the olives in Australia are grown for the production of olive oil (extra virgin olive oil).

According to Horticulture Innovation Australia estimates, 117,000 metric tonnes of olives are produced in Australia each year, with 63% produced in Victoria, 17% in Western Australia, 11% in South Australia and 9% in New South Wales.

The Respondents

Over 75% of respondents were olive growers and producers. More than 71% of survey participants operated one olive grove or processing facility, 20% operated none, and the remaining 10% operated more than one. 

In 2016 almost 92% of the olive businesses operating in Australia were Australian-owned. Victoria had the largest number of survey respondents who owned olive groves and processing plants in Victoria at 23.5%, closely followed by New South Wales with 22.5%.

The majority of respondents, almost 68%, were over 54 years of age, with just over 35% of the respondents aged between 55 to 64 years old, and only 0.9% of respondents under 29 years of age. Approximately 74% of the respondents indicated their gender were males.

Their Olive Groves

The most predominant olive variety grown in Australia was Frantoio, owned by 73.1% of growers and producers, followed by Manzanillo at 64.1%, Kalamata at 47.3%, and Correggiola at 37.1%.

Almost 80% of respondents had a traditional grove layout, while most of the remaining 20% owned medium density olive groves. On average, in 2016, respondents had owned an olive grove for approximately 14 years. Over 62% of their olive grove employees were locals residing in their region.

Their Products

Approximately 63% of respondents identified as predominantly olive oil producers, 10.8% as mainly table olive producers, and 12% as focused equally on the production of both olives and olive oil. Almost the same proportion of grove owners had (43.3%) and did not have (42.1%) their own olive processing facility, whereas 14.6% intended to expand or incorporate a facility into their business operation in the near future.

At the time of the survey, 42.1% of participants said they were actively involved in producing table olives, with 5.5% of participants considering undertaking the production of table olives. More than 40% of respondents planned to expand their table olive production, while over 20% expected to plant more olive trees.

Food Products & Oleotourism

Approximately 56.4% of respondents sold their product under their own brand name; 9.8% only sold their product wholesale, while 33.1% sold their product both in bulk and branded. Growers and producers mainly sold olives and olive oil within their own region, with the most popular sales channels being the food service industry, farmers’ markets and online through their own website.

Olive oil production costs ranged from $3/L to $15/L, with $6.12/L the average cost. Package volumes were mostly 500mL (58.4%), 250mL and 20L.

More than 60% of respondents spent less than $1000 annually on marketing their business, products and services to consumers; and 23.6% of these respondents spent $0 on marketing. However, 22.2% of olive groves were involved in oleotourism and had tasting rooms and stores.

Only 30.95% of respondents considered olive and olive oil competitions of value to their brand and business, 42.06% did not comment. Just 40% of participants reported that they enter competitions.

Chemical Tests, Storage and Transportation

Over 80% of respondents were consistently successful with chemical tests for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and 13.5% were successful most of the time. More than 84% of those who were not successful with chemical tests for EVOO had overcome previous failures to meet standards.

Most respondents–76.5%–stored olive oil in stainless steel tanks, whereas 37% used plastic containers, and 20.2% used IBC Shuttles and Pallecons. Around 62% of responders transported their olive oil in glass bottles, while 28.9% used plastic cubes, 25.6% used stainless steel tanks, and 22.3% used tin cans with Epon lining. Many respondents used various types of containers.

Problems and Concerns

More than half of respondents experienced persistent problems with pests and diseases in their olive groves, especially with scale and olive lace bug. Birds, sooty mould, weeds, ants and anthracnose were each a problem for more than 20% of respondents, with many reporting more than one problem occurring in their olive grove.

Almost 42% of participants considered access to / supply of water and lack of irrigation infrastructure one of the most crucial issues and a threat to the sustainability of the olive industry in Australia.

Managing and monitoring pest and disease control / biosecurity was not far behind at 35.2%, with domestic and international marketing and promotion of Australian olive and EVOO food products a concern to a third of respondents (31.5%). Biennial bearing (29.7%) and harvesting (25.5%) were also major concerns for more than a quarter of respondents.

Information Sources and Industry Associations

Almost 33.3% of respondents acquired industry information and developments regarding their business operations mainly from online and print sources, and around 22% from exchanging information and learning from the experiences and problems encountered by other olive growers and producers.

While close to 60% of respondents did not attend the major national industry conferences, just over 26.9% attended the National Olive Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Australian Olive Association, while 21% attended the Olive Exposium.

Only 46.2% of respondents were members of the Australian Olive Association. Even fewer, 28.5%, were members of state olive associations, and 36.2% were not members of an industry association. Only 11.5% were direct members of Horticulture Innovation Australia. 

Many respondents considered that industry associations should focus on marketing and promotion; support for growers; professional education and training; research and development; and access to and sharing of industry information and developments. 

Government and Industry Organisations

Participants were also interested in seeing federal and state governments and industry organizations do more to promote the industry, undertake initiatives in research and development, and monitor olive and olive oil imports, including accurate labelling, quality control, and enforcement of standards.

Approximately 62% of respondents paid an olive levy. On average, participants rated their level of satisfaction with the use of their levies 5.6 out of 10.

Most respondents rated the practical value of this information, outcomes and recommendations derived from projects funded with their levies 4.3 out of 10.

Approximately 29.3% of respondents had not read a research and development project report, and only 28.6% had read a recent / current research and development project report. Over 84% of respondents were not aware of any current research and development projects that were underway or completed, or experienced difficulty in assessing and attaining report projects.

Most participants indicated it was important to them that research and development projects funded by their levies focus on pest and disease management, market and product development, and especially on assistance in lowering business operating costs and increasing yields for growers.

View of the Olive and Olive Oil Market and Its Future

Overall, the majority (53.79%) of respondents had a positive view of the olive oil market in Australia, and 41.48% of respondents were positive about the Australian table olive market.

A number of participants commented on the high quality of Australian EVOO and consumer awareness of quality in an EVOO. Whereas other participants believed inadequate awareness, appreciation and promotion of high quality so that lower-priced imported olive oils were often purchased over local Australian olive oils. Many respondents were concerned about inadequate income received from Australian olives and olive oil.

More than 52% of respondents were confident or very confident about the future of the Australian olive and olive oil industry.

The Olive Centre would like to thank all respondents and express that this information will prove useful for the improvement of the olive industry in Australia.

More: Part 2

Disclaimer:  Information contained herein are not the views or opinions of The Olive Centre or it’s Directors.  The views and opinions contained herein should not be seen as a statement nor representation of The Olive Centre nor its Directors.  The Olive Centre does not guarantee, and accepts no legal liability, for the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained herein or any linked sites or information. You should seek appropriate independent professional advice before making any decisions based on material found associated with The Olive Centre or any affiliated sites.  You should not rely on material we provide.  All care given to the accuracy of the information provided and is correct at the time of release.

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