Green Gold – Olive Oil in Uruguay
Maldonado is the Place for Olive Oil in Uruguay.
The olive oil originally concentrated in the northwestern region of Uruguay, Salto, Paysandú and Rio Negro in the 60’s. Then it slowly spread to the rest of the country and with overwhelming speed in the last decade outgrowing all expectations in the region of Maldonado, Uruguay.
Regional and international associations among investors have focused on various projects to improve planting conditions and help olive producers in the development of excellent products. This process also influenced positively in the development environmental laws because the olive culture is in close relationship with ecological concepts. The soil in Uruguay has unique qualities for olive production. Water is one other factor to take into account since the olive needs the correct amount of water at certain times with the exact amount of rainfall. This has turned the region of Maldonado into an ideal place to have olive oil plantations. The trees planted in most of the country are in their second or third crop, representing 15% of maximum production. This means they have a lot of potential to develop, after the tenth year of maturity and this allows them to offer a production of about 40 kilos of olives per tree.
Numbers are showing that the olive sector is strengthening and expanding in comparison to the international olive imports, however, only 10% of the local market of olive oil is covered by Uruguayan products. Ten years ago 1300 liters of oil could be harvested per hectare planted. The amount has tripled and currently the value of exports exceed $ 70 million. Exports to Brazil, Canada and United States have already created a good starting ground but there is a lot to do. The U.S. is the goal of the producers, who are also setting their eyes on Asian countries. The production in 10 years will be 80 % exportable. Uruguay has already exceeded the 8500 hectares of olive plantation and the best way to promote this enterprise is to continue to expand these experiences.
Learning from Tourism
Everything related to olive oil in Uruguay has a very peculiar charm. Several plantation owners have gathered to share the story behind the olive oil process and organized special tours so as to get immediate feedback from amateur and professional olive oil tasters. Olive oil tours are becoming a novelty during summer 2014. Visitors are enjoying the visits to the plantations. Visitors are shown around and offered lunch, olive tastings and horse rides. Most visitors are foreigners at the moment but producers are aiming at obtaining more regional and local visitors.
The bitterness, the spice, the right level of acidity and the fruit scents can be felt when tasting the olives in Uruguay. Sophisticated olive varieties such as Arbequina, Picual, Barnea, Coratina, Leccinio have excelled the Mediterranean flavors that traditionally came to this region. More creations of extra virgin olive oil are adding up every year. Some producers even launch limited editions such as the one from Marcelo Conserva with his Reserva del Faro composed of three unique varieties, Koroneiki, Arbosana and Picual. It is an extraordinary, complex and harmonic one time edition.
The Olive Route
The most mentioned olive route is in Maldonado where the largest number of olive enterprises are located in the country. Throughout the tour visitors can observe several of the olive-growing plantations in the area. From Punta del Este and the Sierra de los Caracoles and continuing along Routes 9, 12 and 39, there is a true micro climate that helps olives to grow. The three main olive producers are O’33, Colinas de Garzón and Finca Babieca.
One of the novelties is O’33 near José Ignacio an agro industrial enterprise of Uruguayan investors who started the production and industrialization of olive with strict international protocols observing steps towards the biodiversity and caring for the ecosystem. Other enterprises are Colinas de Garzon and Finca Babieca with a wind farm, showing harmony between man and nature through a renewable energy source.
Babieca estate was founded in 2005 and is owned by Spanish investors. It has 100 hectares under olive groves and it is located in the Sierra de los Caracoles, between Routes 9, 12 and 39. The tour includes sea, hills and nature. Visitors can see a scenery of forests and streams with spectacular views of the countryside. Then on the way back there is a stop to recover at Pueblo Eden, tasting the local food, and a nice drive near Laguna del Sauce towards Punta del Este.
For information on how to obtain more info about Maldonado or other communities in the area please contact us. Mary Ann Thompson