Olive oil and environment

The Olive Oil production and consumption is constantly growing around the world, this fact leads us to address in this article the effects of its production process to the environment.

First of all, it is important to understand what is the so-called sustainable production, as well as to know the current data of consumption and manufacture of olive oil. In this way, we will understand the need to develop techniques which will prevent from risks, to the system on which our future development depends on.

Sustainable Production

According to the United Nations (UN), sustainable consumption and production consist on “doing more and better with less”. In addition, the aim is to “decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, increase efficiency resources and promote sustainable lifestyles”. Finally, they emphasize that sustainable consumption and production can also contribute “substantially” to poverty alleviation and the transition to green and low-carbon economies.

Therefore, among the 17 goals to transform our world contained in the 2030 Agenda about Sustainable Development of the UN, is the “Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns” (Goal 12).

Consumption and production of olive oil

World consumption of olive oil is around three million tonnes per year. In Spain, according to information provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) through the Food Consumption Panels, consumption has increased by 0.4 liters per person over the last five years. In particular, there is a greater increase in the use of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, while that of virgin olive oil remains stable.

Of those three million tons consumed annually, Spain produces almost half. During the 2020/2021 season, production in our country stood at around 1.4 million tons, which makes us the world’s leading producer of olive oil.

According to the same source, the olive grove covers 2.75 million hectares, of which 2.55 million hectares belong to olive groves (93% of the total olive grove). The crop is present in 15 of the 17 autonomous communities with a central-southern and eastern distribution of the peninsula, Andalucía being the largest producing region with 1.67 million hectares.

Environmental impact of EVOO production

Recently, a team from the University of Jaen has analysed the environmental impact of olive oil production, both in the agricultural and industrial phases. The objective was to identify which olive tree management activities and practices can be improved to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus contribute to mitigating climate change.

The study has confirmed that rain-fed olive trees contribute more to climate change mitigation than those using irrigation systems. The rain-fed olive grove cultivated in a traditional way took clearly more CO2 than the irrigated one, and that of the intensive, modality more and more common in Andalusia.

In a production analysis of virgin olive oil from the cultivation of the olive to its extraction, it was observed that activities of the agricultural phase are responsible for 76% of the environmental impact related to climate change.

The analysis showed that the environmental impacts associated with intensive olive groves were generally the highest, mainly due to the application of nitrogen fertilizers, plant protection products and herbicides. The researchers conclude that “the application of organic fertilizers and facilitating temporary spontaneous cover crops achieve a positive carbon balance and reduce the negative impacts of olive cultivation”.

EVOO Production at Esencia Califal

In Esencia Califal we are highly committed to the environment and its sustainability. We conceive sustainable production as a philosophy that leads us to promote the efficient use of resources and energy, to create green jobs with good working conditions and to offer healthy products that lead us to achieve business efficiency and the well-being and satisfaction of society.

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