The “new normal” for the table olive season

Agro Sevilla

Every year after summer, the olives ripen sufficiently for harvest, and Andalusian olive growers get ready to pick them. An ancient tradition that now faces one of its most unusual years. Previously, we have written about the peculiarities of the olive season and the verdeo which takes place from the end of September until November, depending on olive variety. 

While it is true that the 'verdeo' (table olive season) technique has been used for centuries, it has also evolved considerably thanks to technological advances. Traditionally, olives used to be picked by hand from the olive tree using the “ordeño” technique. Nowadays, few farmers use this method. In the majority of olive groves, the “ordeño” is complemented with machinery such as shakers, a kind of mechanical arm that facilitates the fall of the fruit onto nets, or “fardones”, placed below and around the olive tree so that the olives don’t come into contact with the ground. 

It may seem simple, but the truth is that the work of these farmers requires a great deal of technique, as it is crucial to not damage the fruit, tapping the branches sideways and down to cause the least damage possible to the olive tree.

The 2020 verdeo, a season marked by Covid-19

This year the table olive harvest, as with all sectors, will also be affected by the situation we are experiencing. The verdeo season starts filled with uncertainty among the olive growers, with many unknowns not only in the work environment, but also in commercial and agronomic spheres. 

On the 2nd of September a law covering preventive public health measures carried out in Andalusian farms with temporary workers came into force, aimed at the early detection of possible cases, isolation and control of transmission.

As for the security measures to implement and strictly comply with, there are fixed crews of day laborers where each person is clearly identified; Within a farm, it will be necessary for members of the staff to comply with the safety distance whenever possible, and contact between different crews is prohibited.

Hydroalcoholic gels must be available, to disinfect all work equipment. With regard to the use of masks, it is obligatory during working hours except when their use is incompatible with climatological limitations and only when health and safety rules are complied with. Break periods will be staggered, with shifts created between different crews of day laborers. 

Without doubt, this is a complicated year in many ways, and a real challenge for many areas, including the olive sector. We have no doubt that our farmers and associated cooperatives will do everything possible so that the harvest goes ahead with all the necessary health and safety guarantees.