In Australia, olive cultivation began to develop in the late 19th century, with the arrival of European immigrants, particularly from Italy and Greece. This led to the creation of a nascent olive industry, which benefited from the country’s varied climate, suitable for growing different varieties. The Australian history of the olive tree is one of adaptation, innovation, and growth, with an increasing emphasis on sustainable and high-quality production.
The annual consumption of olive oil in Australia ranges from 35,000 to 50,000 tons. Until 1995, the country heavily relied on imports from Spain, Italy, and Greece, which, in turn, stimulated the establishment of new olive plantations. These new plantations come in various sizes, from large-scale investments to boutique and lifestyle plantations, featuring a diverse range of olive varieties.
As the olive trees matured, the harvesting process evolved, and the introduction of machinery for oil milling and processing marked a new era. Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oils entered the market alongside imported products, initially commanding a higher price that gradually decreased with improved local cultivation practices and processing expertise.
Presently, locally produced olive oil in Australia caters to approximately 40% of the local demand, amounting to 15,000 metric tons out of an average annual consumption of 46,000 tons over the last decade.
As the olive trees matured, the harvesting process developed, and machinery for oil milling and processing was imported. Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oils started to share space on store shelves and in restaurants alongside imported products. The novelty came with an initially high price, which has decreased as local cultivation conditions were better understood, and experience in processing improved to enhance yields and reduce production costs.
In the realm of table olives, the past decade witnessed an average annual production of 3,300 tons, with the largest olive orchard for this purpose boasting 125,000 trees. Annual consumption of table olives hovers around 21,200 tons, with a significant 75% being imported.
Notably, the predominant quality of the olive oil produced in Australia is extra virgin, constituting 80% of the total production. This underscores a shift towards high-quality olive oil production in the country.