Silveria said the olive committee’s statewide estimate is 32,500 tons, but he thinks yield will be higher—about 42,000 tons, with the north district’s production coming in at around 25,000 to 27,000 tons and the south district at about 15,000 tons.
Ross Turner, who grows both table and oil olives in Corning, said even though many farmers fallowed ground this year due to drought, there’s still concern about whether workers in the San Joaquin Valley would leave the area to travel north to pick olives, as they may not be able to find housing or may have family obligations that prevent them from leaving.
“Labor is an unknown quantity and we’re all scared to death about the availability of labor,” he said. “So many crops are coming on early this year and there’s going to be a competitive market.”
Turner said while he doesn’t have much volume on his trees, he thinks he has a “salvageable” crop that he hopes to pick. But the drought also increased his production costs this year because he had to pump water, he noted. Another added expense was trying to control the olive fruit fly, infestations of which have escalated, he said.
Silveria said his water district will be shutting off irrigation water around late September, but harvest in the north will probably run from early September into October, so growers will have to pick early before their water is shut off, unless they have access to groundwater.
Hester said a lack of water would shrivel the fruit, and processors would reject it. Water shortages could also impact next year’s crop, as water is needed to grow new fruit wood.California table olive growers report a ‘real bad’ crop,