South Texas is a good place to grow olive trees

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One economist argues that South Texas could be a sweet spot for another kind of oil — olive oil.

“One of the opportunities for diversification in South Texas includes olive oil production. It’s a good place to grow olive trees and the U.S. imports 95 percent of the olive oil that it consumes,” said Thomas Tunstael, professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio Institute for Economic Development.

The Eagle Ford Shale is where there was an oil and gas drilling bonanza and is just north of the Valley, and the largely untapped Burgos Basin is to the south in Mexico. Tunstael was one of half a dozen analysts who explored the future of energy in South Texas at a conference hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Thursday afternoon.

The United States imports about 300,000 tons of olive oil each year. Domestic production is largely lacking — at about 12,000 tons in 2013, according to the economic development institute. Since olives and the production of olive oil typically has a higher profit margin for an agricultural product and the Valley has a similarly Mediterranean climate, it’s a potentially good fit, he said.

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