Olive farmers explore soils for oils

Olive growers in two states are anticipating gains from a new provenance-branding initiative supported by the Australian Government.

More than 100 members of the Queensland Olive Council and Olives South Australia will work with South Australian researchers to investigate a product designation of origin (PDO) system for Australian extra-virgin olive oils, assisted by $66,909 from the national Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration pilot program, known as Farming Together.

Already the group has commissioned research to sample olives to create regional palate profiles.

“Provenance underpins food authenticity and puts consumers and growers together. It shows how flavour, taste and health benefits relate to consumers’ need,” said Amanda Bailey, CEO of the Queensland Olive Council.

“We estimate 85% of Australian extra-virgin olive oils are made from olives grown in a single grove that has been maintained by the owner who cares.”

The success of this pilot study involving South Australian and Queensland olive growers could lead to a national appellation scheme which would support the marketability of Australian extra-virgin olive oil both on the domestic and international stages.

“Regionality and differences in production practice across regions is also likely to extend to differences in their health-giving components such as polyphenols and squalene,” explained Dr Richard Gawel, the scientific collaborator on the project. (pictured)

“Squalene in particular is becoming a rock-star in the health world, with some Japanese buyers insisting on minimum levels of this rare antioxidant found only in extra virgin olive oil and, surprisingly, shark livers. Pure squalene is also used in exclusive cosmetics and skin formulations. Understanding how regionality affects these components will be valuable to Australian growers.”

Amanda said production is trending upwards in both states, as trees planted up to 16 years ago are now maturing. Growers hope the PDO will help with sales of this increased volume of product.

“And examining the different components of our oils could see premium pricing for some of our products,” she added.

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