Olive farmers hope for successful season after poor harvest last year

Olive farmers across Aotearoa are hoping for a successful season after harvest numbers crashed last year.

And the increasing price of imported olive oil may offer them a great opportunity.

One of New Zealand's largest olive groves is in Auckland's Bombay Hills. 

Johno Smith has been running Bracu Estate for more than a decade, but things are tough.

"New Zealand is one of the most expensive places to make olive oil, and that's unfortunately only getting worse," he told Newshub.

"All costs have gone up, from labour to inputs."

Local olive farmers only produce about 10 percent of the extra-virgin olive oil consumed here each year.

Extreme weather events like Cyclone Gabrielle and the spread of disease among crops has meant olive oil production has dropped significantly nationwide.

"Last year we had the lowest volume produced since 2015," said Emma Glover of Olives New Zealand.

"There are some groves that have been pulled out and replaced with grapes and apples and things which have much faster return," she added.

Overseas, drought in Spain and other parts of the Mediterranean has resulted in an olive oil shortage, which has pushed up imported oil prices on our supermarket shelves.

But our local olive oil industry is hoping it may be a good thing.

"It means the prices between imported and New Zealand-produced oil become a bit closer together. We find it really hard to compete with imported oil," said Glover.

The global shortage is also a reminder of how vulnerable our food supply chains are amid the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine, and recent attacks in the Red Sea.

"What we seem to be seeing is it's becoming more frequent, more severe - we seem to be living in a more uncertain and risky environment," said Alan Renwick, professor of agricultural economics at Lincoln University.

Safeguarding both global and domestic food systems needs to be a priority, Prof Renwick said.

"We need to really begin a dialogue about how we move from our efficient system to a resilient system, and that might need investment from Government."

Despite a disruptive couple of years, Smith told Newshub he's still feeling positive.

"Everybody's hoping that this year will be a good season and we'll have plenty of olive oil in New Zealand."

It'll all come down to harvest season in a few month's time.