TONNES of olives are going to waste at one Tasmanian grove as consumers choose cheaper imported olive oils.
Christine Mann has owned the award-winning Glendale Olive Grove at White Hills since 2013.
The grove, planted in 2005, is the second biggest in Tasmania with 9000 trees on 15ha.
Despite an abundance of top-quality olives that make exceptional oil, Ms Mann said a lack of demand meant most of this year’s crop would be wasted.
“At the moment there just isn’t a big market here for Tasmanian olive oil and our cost of production is too high to compete with the large mainland companies,” she said.
“Even though the Tasmanian oil is a lot better quality, people just seem to prefer to go to the supermarket and buy the cheap stuff that’s imported.”
Ms Mann started harvesting last week. A small amount of her olives will be pressed and made into oil sold through specialist retail outlets and used in some of the state’s top restaurants.
However, Ms Mann estimates that this season about 50 tonnes of olives at her grove will be wasted.
“It’s a shame because it makes really good oil, but there’s no point picking it if you don’t have a market.
“I’ll only pick a few tonnes this year.”
The grove was planted in a hedgerow system that would allow for mechanical harvesting if the equipment was available in the state and there was a suitable market for the oil.
Last year Glendale oil received a reserve champion award in the robust category at the Australian Olive Association’s annual awards for extra virgin olive oil.
Ms Mann, who lives next door to the grove, said she decided to buy the business after watching the trees mature over a number of years.
The grove includes about seven different olive varieties.
“Olive oil is really good for you and I think the recommended amount people should be having everyday is between 20ml and 40ml,” she said.
“The two biggest things which ruin the quality of the oil are sunlight and temperature. That’s why the olive oil in clear glass bottles that’s imported is much lower quality. A lot of it is probably rancid before they even buy it.”
While she enjoys working in the grove, the size of the operation presents challenges.
“It’s 12 months of the year and I can’t prune all the trees every year, because with 9000 it’s a lot of pruning,” she said.
“Our climate here is fantastic for growing olives. That’s why the quality is so good, we have nice cool weather and they grow over a longer time.”