Until recently the traditional producing countries around the Mediterranean could produce olive oil and table olives far more competitively than Australia.
However, the industry is now changing from the very traditional manual labour techniques to mechanised systems of growing and harvesting, and Australia now finds itself becoming increasingly competitive, not just in import replacement, but in its ability to export large volumes of high quality olive oil.
In 2002 Australia’s olive oil production was less than 1 million litres. This has steadily grown from over 2 million litres in 2004 to in excess of 20 million litres in 2013 or just less than 1% of the average world production.
Australia’s consumption of olive oil increased from 5,700 tonnes in 1983 to 17,200 tonnes in 1993. By 2013 this had grown to an estimated 45,000 tonnes, an increase of 790% in just over two decades. Australia presently consumes more than double its own annual production and is the largest consumer of olive oil per capita outside the Mediterranean.
Given the fragmented nature of the Australian industry it is hard to know just how many trees are in the ground. We estimate that there are about 1,500 olive growers in Australia who own over 35,000 hectares of planted olives (2013 estimate). Victoria is the largest producing state, accounting for over 25% of the planted area and over 60% of the annual production.
The most common varieties planted across Australian groves are Arbequina, Barnea, Coratina, Frantoio and Picual, which represents approximately 85% of the total area planted. Manzanillo, Koroneiki, Hojiblanca and Picholine are present in smaller proportions. Most of these varieties have been chosen for their productivity and high oil quality.