California table olive growers report a ‘real bad’ crop

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Freezing temperatures last winter coupled with impacts from the drought have left many California table olive growers in the San Joaquin Valley with not much of a crop this year.

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a production forecast of 50,000 tons—down from last year’s crop of 91,000 tons—Adin Hester, president of the Olive Growers Council of California, said he thinks the estimate is “on the high side” based on what growers are reporting in Tulare County, where there’s about 12,000 acres, or 60 percent of the state’s table olives.

“It’s real bad down here,” said Rod Burkett, a grower in Tulare County and chairman of the council. “We don’t have any fruit down here to speak of, between the frost, the extensive heat during bloom and the drought.”

Olive trees are alternate-bearing, and this would have been the “off” year, yielding a lighter crop, Hester noted. But with the added weather issues and the drought, growers had a particularly challenging year, he said.

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