• South Africa consumes around six million litres of olive oil annually. South Africa is a net importer and so prices are linked to import parity prices.
  • The olive industry in South Africa produces less than a third of the oil consumed in the country. It is a small role player in global terms and has the potential to create more than 10 000 permanent jobs and 30 000 seasonal jobs. Imported olive oil is subsidised and cheaper, one of the impediments to creating further employment in this sector.
  • The climate in the Western Cape is ideal for growing olives, especially around towns like Paarl, Robertson and Montagu. Olives can also be produced in certain summer rainfall areas, under irrigation, as happens in Hartswater in the Northern Cape. Harvesting can be done mechanically or by hand. The latter yields a better product but is more labour intensive.
  • Olive farming is a long-term investment, with a return on investment only showing four to five years after planting.
  • Olives are an important crop for South Africa having high growth potential while also being labour intensive (Sihlobo, 2018).

International business environment

  • World consumption of olive oil is between 3,1 and 3,2 million tons per year.
  • The largest producers in the world are Spain, Tunisia and Italy. Other major producers are Morocco, Greece, Algeria, Egypt, Portugal, Syria and Turkey.

Find information at:


Recognised as “the most comprehensive resource for products, trends, and information on everything related to olive oil”, www.oliveoilsource.com

South Africa: imports and exports

Local production of olive oil only satisfies a third of consumption in South Africa, with the rest needing to be imported.

  • South Africa mostly imports olive oil from Spain (69%) and Italy (21%) (Hortgro-SA Olive, 2018)
  • South Africa exports olive oil mostly to other SADC countries, with the top countries being Namibia (29%), Botswana (15%) and Zambia (9%) (Hortgro-SA Olive, 2018)
  • Fresh or chilled olives went to Namibia (26%), Lesotho (17%) and Botswana (13%) (Hortgro-SA Olive, 2018)

For the newcomer

Find grower notes on the websites of several role players e.g. www.saolive.co.za and www.drakensteinolives.co.za.

Role players



  • SA Olive Industry Association (SA Olive) Tel: 021 870 2900 www.saolive.co.za Find information on the Commitment to Compliance (CTC) seal on the website. Since 2020, a levy of 8c/kg on all table olives and 40c/litre on all olive oil must be paid by producers, processors and importers when they first sell their product.


Government contact

  • National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) Tel: 012 341 1115 www.namc.co.za Statutory levies for the olive and other agricultural sectors are processed here.


Training and research

  • ARC-Infruitec/Nietvoorbij Carlo Costa Tel: 021 809 3100 www.arc.agric.za
  • University of the Free State Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology Division of Food Science Prof. Arno Hugo Tel: 051 401 2729 HugoA [at] ufs.ac.za



Websites and publications

  • Visit the websites of companies listed earlier on this page. Several of them include general information about olives, including the health aspects.
  • www.saolive.co.za is a vital stop for information about olives and the South African olive industry. Amongst the information are notes for growing olives and standards for nurseries. There is also information about available publications and DVDs. These include (i) Olive Production in South Africa, (ii) Olive Oil: A Field Guide, (iii) Olive Growing Manual, and (iv) Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.
  • Available from ARC-Agricultural Engineering (ARC-AE) is the publication “Agro-processing of Olives and Legumes (green peas, green beans, cowpeas, lentils, olives, peanuts, mushrooms)”. Call 012 842 4017 or visit www.arc.agric.za.
  • Table Olive Processing Made Easy by Linda Costa. Find details at www.olivesinfact.com.
  • Costa, C. 1998. Olive Production in South Africa: A Handbook for Olive Growers. Nelspruit: ARC-Tropical and Subtropical Crops.
  • Find news and information at http://olive-central.co.za.
  • Find the history of olives and notes on the South African olive sector at www.rosannaolives.co.za.
  • The AgriSETA Assessment Guide Primary Agriculture “Monitor the establishment of a crop” includes orchard trees. Another relevant learner guides include “Harvesting agricultural crops”.
  • Find the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) olive notes at www.fao.org/nr/water/cropinfo_olive.html
  • Find “Links, books & articles” at http://olivesgowild.co.za.
  • Find the olive tree information at https://wikifarmer.com/olive-tree-information/.


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