As world demand increases, South Africa is certainly stepping up to the plate in meeting the shortage of quality, fresh olive oil.
As we know, olive oil is no longer simply used for cooking. Its many and varied uses, including its numerous health benefits, are increasingly known and enjoyed by foodies the world over. The industry experienced a rocky 2017 with production shortages that resulted in higher prices, driven by the widespread drought affecting farmers in the Western Cape region. In the last two decades, South Africa has lost close to 30% of its farmlands due to water scarcity.
Against this backdrop, South Africa has still managed to produce world-class olive oil, which has been recognised on the international stage. Over the past five years, there has been a 50% increase in planting and financing of olive farms, with approximately 95% of olive farmers situated in the Western Cape.
In this growing industry, there is also much room for development to harness the potential of young entrepreneurs and farmers. Farmers of olives could play a critical role as creators of jobs and drivers of economic growth within the South African agricultural sector.
At Absa, we pursue what we call our Shared Growth strategy. Shared Growth for us means that if a community prospers, we prosper. And one of the key pillars of Shared Growth is enterprise development. So in 2013, we saw how we could work, together with the SA Olive Association, to further facilitate the growth and development of the olive oil industry by introducing, what was then the Absa Top 5 Olive Oil awards. Because, in line with Shared Growth, if the olive oil producers prosper and the industry grows, there will be joint benefits for banking partners, like Absa to grow.
Last year, in a show of confidence in the olive industry, we extended this honour to 10 exceptional olive oils. The qualifiers for the Absa Top 10 are selected from the ranks of the highest-scoring SA Olive Awards medal winners by a team of revered tasters. Consumers can be certain when buying any of the Absa Top 10 olive oils that they will be buying the best of the best the South African olive oil industry has to offer. I would like to thank the judging panel for their commitment to the high judging standards required for a competition of this stature. I’d also like to thank the SA Olive Association. We are proud of this sponsorship and our association with the South African olive oil industry.
And of course, congratulations to all the finalists and our top 10 winners. It is a remarkable achievement to be counted as one of the top 10 olive oils in this prestigious competition. Absa would like to wish you every success in the future.