Harvesting is the costliest orchard operation in the growing of olives, with harvesting labour accounting for up to 40% of total costs in traditional orchards. The peak demand for labour on an olive farm is in the harvesting season.Olives are harvested by hand in South Africa. Depending on whether olives are to be pickled or pressed, the harvesting method is different. Table olives are picked individually into picking bags or baskets while oil olives can be milked off the trees on to nets placed on the ground.
The Harvesting date is dependant largely on the previous spring and summer temperatures. Hot dry conditions can promote early and rapid ripening of fruit, shortening the harvest period.
The season usually begins in late February or early March with the picking of green table olives and continues until the middle of August when the last of the late oil cultivars are picked. The harvesting of early table olive cultivars may coincide with that of late wine grapes in the Western Cape.
The picking rate depends on the size of the tree, the crop and the cultivar, but 60 kg per adult per day is a fair average for table quality Mission. For oil olives, this would increase to over 100kg.
Olives, like most fruit, are easily bruised if roughly handled. Damaged fruit is unacceptable to the processors. Both oil and table olives should be delivered to the mills or processors as soon as possible after harvesting. In the case of oil olives, damaged fruit should be milled within 24 hours if a high-quality oil is to be produced. Undamaged fruit may be stored for several days at a cool temperature without apparent harm.
– Olive Production in South Africa by Carlo Costa
Olive Quality v.s. Ripeness
– Olives South Africa