The cultivation of the olive in South Africa is very young, in comparison with the Mediterranean countries, where olive cultivation is over 1,000 years old.
In the mid of the 17th century, the first two olive trees were planted by Jan Van Riebeeck, (who was the first Dutch governor of the Cape) in his farm, but 200 years went by and the olive cultivation didn’t get exploited.
The wild olive (olea Africana) which is inedible is South Africa’s native olive. The olive oil industry developed and expanded with the guidance and care of an Italian immigrant, Fernando Costa, who brought many different varieties to South Africa. His first olive oil production was in 1936. Today varieties such the Kalamata for table olives, Frantoio, Coratina, Leccino and others for oil.
Olive trees are being planted yearly in South Africa, for the production of table olives and olive oil. The demand of olive oil is increasing, because of the spreading of the awareness, of its health benefits. The growers and producers have multiplied by over 20% yearly. The climate is similar to the Mediterranean one and very favorable for olive oil production.
The first gold medal for South African olive oil was received at a London show, by a farmer from Paarl. Since than many International awards have been awarded to South African olive oil producers. South African olive oil is of excellent quality and in 2011, in the Los Angeles Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, won three prizes.
The South African government do not offer any subsidies for the growth of the olive oil industry. The olive growers have passion for this necessity. This passion resulted in olive oil that many times surpassed the quality of the oil, Greece, Italy and Spain are producing since antiquity and are famous for it.
The consumption of olive oil in this part of the world, also increases annually, just like the olive oil production. Although the production is increasing, most of the oil is imported. The past a few years, South African producers, got away from table olive planting and concentrated in olive oil varieties. With advanced technology, this industry secures a high quality extra virgin olive oil, with less than o.8% acidity levels.
The South African extra virgin olive oil exceeds in the specifications of the International Olive Oil Council (IOC). Locally produced extra virgin olive oil is true extra virgin with no signs of adulteration, compared to most of the imported, that is mislabeled.