Croatian olive oil production decreased for the third consecutive year, falling to just 3,000 tons in the 2018/19 harvest season. This represents a 23-percent decrease compared to the previous campaign and 40 percent decrease compared to the last off-season.
A combination of many olive growers entering an off-year and some bad weather contributed to the slipping production. However, many remain optimistic that the quality of the oil that has been produced is as good as ever. Croatians almost exclusively produce extra virgin olive oil.
A cold-snap that took place in March 2018, known as the Beast from the East, killed off the blossoms of olive trees that were already blooming, rendering them barren for the remainder of the season.
However, other than this event, Croatian producers in Istria and Dalmatia said the weather was largely cooperative, which is why so many expect to have a high-quality harvest this year.
In particular, it was a good year for growing Buža olives, which are unique to the northwestern peninsula of Istria. Many producers who grow this variety are confident oils produced from them will turn out very well this year.
These olive oils will also be able to be sold under the Istra PDO for the first time after the European Union gave Istrian olive oil Protected Designation of Origin status earlier this year.
Croatian producers hope that this new recognition will help boost foreign sales of their oils, which were less than 100 tons in the 2018/19 campaign.
The United States is one of the markets in which Croatian exporters hope to sell their oils, but this may be complicated if American tariffs on European Union olive oil are accepted by the World Trade Organization. Japan, China and Canada are among other markets that Croatian producers are eyeing.
Domestic consumption also remained steady at 7,000 tons, with many producers selling off their olive oil stocks in order to meet the continuing demand.
While the regions of Istria and Dalmatia remain the main olive growing regions, newer areas in the mountainous east of the country are becoming increasingly inhabitable for olive trees.
Olive growers are watching this unintended consequence of climate change closely and weighing the option of investing in olive groves farther away from the coast.