In 1831 James Drummond planted the first olive trees in the Western Australia Government House gardens, brought from Cadiz, Spain. These trees were used for the propagation of rootstock that was used to supply the settler farmers in that region.
The Benedictine monks planted the oldest olive orchards in Western Australia about 1856. In the beginning the Australian olive orchards were abandoned, because the settlers from Northern Europe were not used to olive oil and olives consumption. Olive oil was used as medicine, not food. Few orchards were cultivated, producing small quantities of olives for eating and olive oil for medicinal use.
In South Australia the olive orchards that were abandoned by the settlers, became wild and invaded the farmland and the environment. The producers think that the wild olives are useless and the food critics think that they are of a unique taste.
In the 1940s olive orchards were planted in South Australia and in the 1970s and 1980s the South region was the largest table olive producer, with 1000 tonnes yearly. Due to the lack of technology and fall in olive oil prices, the olive trees were uprooted. Later on the olive trees were replaced.
After World War II in the late 1940s and 1960s, the new South European and later the Middle Eastern immigrants, restored the interest in olives. The new immigrants consumed olives as regular food and traditional Australian food was replaced by the Mediterranean diet.
Green olives with the Verdale variety dominating, were produced for small scale and commercial processing. Loxton in South Australia, became the largest table olive producer. Today the Verdale variety olive orchard has been replaced with the Kalamata variety.
Olive producers are directing 20% of their production to table olives. Consumers prefer the-Greek style black olives, Kalamata-and Sicilian style, more than the lye treated olives. Small scale of table olive producers, prefer the natural methods of processing.
About half of the Australian olive orchards are operating in a small scale level with less than 1500 trees. Most Australian table olives come from South Australia. Very soon this is going to change, because new olive orchards were planted in Western Australia, South Wales and Queenland and the levels of commercial production will be reached.
The main barriers to Australian table olive production are the harvesting costs, which are very high, the limited expertise and the small number of production facilities.
Today national and international food fairs are promoting Australian table olive products. The Australian table olive trade includes all the olive tree products. Olive products grown, processed and packed in Australia, olive products imported to Australia and olive products imported and a second processing is done before sale.
The table olive processors are more interested in natural processing methods. This interest is the same all over the world. The top specialty olive is the Kalamata variety, followed by the Frantoio.
The most common varieties processed into Australian table olives are the Kalamata, Volos, Barouni, Sevillana and Verdale. In the gourmet market are olives packed with feta cheese, garlic, pimento, sun dried tomatoes, capers, lemon and olive oil.