06/02/2008 - 22:00

Moore value for olives

06/02/2008 - 22:00

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Managed investment schemes have played a major role in the development of the olive industry in the Moore River region, which is fast becoming known as a premier location for the production of high-quality extra virgin olive oil.

Moore value for olives

Managed investment schemes have played a major role in the development of the olive industry in the Moore River region, which is fast becoming known as a premier location for the production of high-quality extra virgin olive oil.

Since starting olive plantings in the mid-1990s, the region is now home to the highest concentration of broadacre olive groves in Australia, accounting for about 80 per cent of all olive trees planted in WA.

Its Mediterranean climate of cool wet winters and hot summers has proved highly suitable for olive growing, producing a mild-flavoured olive oil, compared with the stronger flavoured oils produced in the Frankland River region.

While many of the smaller-scale pioneers of Moore River’s olive industry are still operating today, the MIS structure has been credited with developing the industry on a sizeable scale.

Former MIS player Olea Australis Ltd is regarded one of the larger scale pioneers of the region’s olive industry. At the smaller end, GinGin Heritage Estate, Koorian Olive Grove, Neergabby Olive Grove, and Larenta Olives, which was subsequently bought by Olea, were also some of early producers.

Moore River Olive Association president Graeme Hyland said MIS were a major boost for the industry in helping to promote the brand of Moore River olives.

“In the early days [MIS] were great for the industry. They helped put Moore River on the map,” he said.

He said the key challenge now faced by small to medium-sized producers was finding markets for the end product, with the major supermarkets dominated by the larger producers and imported product.

The number of WA MIS companies engaged in growing olives has whittled down to just one, with Great Southern Ltd now the biggest producer of olives in WA after it bought the assets of Olea Australis Ltd late last year.

The acquisition, valued at almost $21 million, included the 385-hectare olive plantation at Dandaragan and associated plant and equipment, but excludes the Dandaragan Estate brand.

Great Southern has overseen the planting of more than 2,400ha of olives through its organic and non-organic olive projects.

Kailis Organic Olive Groves, which manages the farm business and marketing of Great Southern’s organic olive project, is looking to plant between 300 and 400 hectares of olives this year, taking total plantings to 2,000 hectares.

Managing director Mark Kailis believes the olive industry could suffer a smajor set back if the MIS structure for olives was wiped out.

“MIS has been essential, without it we wouldn’t have an industry, end of discussion,” he said.

Mr Kailis said the Moore River region already has a “phenomenal” reputation within the industry, and promotes the development of other olive regions in different climatic environments to diversify the product offering.

Both Olea Australis and Frankland River Olive Company Ltd phased out their MIS structures in the 2007 financial year, buying back the interests of their grower-investors.

Frankland River managing director David Carr said that, while the MIS structure was used as an effective vehicle to attract investors in the early days, the restructure has since enabled the company to become a fully-integrated olive oil business.

He also believes the compliance requirements of MIS are more suited to larger companies.

“We were really an olive oil business, not an MIS,” he said.

The company currently holds 760ha of olive groves, including 274,000 trees in both the Moore River and Great Southern regions.It sells its premium EVOO under the Jingilli brand, in 2007.

WA produced about 1,125 tonnes of olive oil in 2006, with that number expected to reach 8,000t/year by 2010.

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