The Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley is home to more than 630,000 people. The valley commences at the coast and extends more than 150 kilometres inland. Total land area is 30,000 square kilometres. The Hunter Valley comprises a number of sub-regions each of which has its own unique characteristics. The start of Lower Hunter is less than two hours by road from Sydney.
Traditionally, the Hunter Valley has been known for coal and wine and the steel industry on the coast at Newcastle. BHP ceased operations several years ago but Newcastle has continued to thrive with a very busy port and the diversification of local business base to support the coal industry, the airport and the a $1 billion plus agricultural sector.
The Olive Industry in the Hunter Valley
The cultivation of olive trees in The Hunter Valley stretches from Gloucester and the Barrington Tops, down to Anna Bay on the coast at Port Stephens, south down to the Central Coast and as far west as Merriwa and Gundy.
The largest concentration of groves is around the Lower Hunter including the Pokolbin / Lovedale / Rothbury areas already well known for its vineyards, and around the Broke / Fordwich / Singleton areas, again well known for wine and agriculture in general. The Lower Hunter tends to be dominated by smaller, “boutique” groves.
The biggest groves are located in the Upper Hunter at Merriwa and Denman and are substantial commercial operations in their own right, with their own brands and on site processing plants.
While there have been olive trees in the Hunter for decades, most plantings commenced in the early to mid nineties. There are now about 150 olive groves in the Hunter typically with 500 to 3000 trees. There are several larger groves with up to 10-30,000 trees but nothing to match the vast plantings that have occurred in western Victoria where just one grove has more than million trees! The smaller scale of the Hunter olive industry is similar to the wine industry and has the benefit of a high level of personal involvement of the producers.
At best estimate there are probably around 250,000 olive trees in the Hunter. Most fruit is used for oil processing with a much smaller percentage being used for table fruit. In 2010 the Hunter Valley produced just over 1000 tonnes of olive oil and about 20 tonnes of table fruit.
Improvements in horticultural practices are expected to see these quantities increase substantially. Even at full production the Hunter will only produce a relatively small proportion of olive products consumed in Australia. What we lack in scale we make up for in quality!
There are currently two businesses providing commercial oil pressing services in the Hunter Valley. Pukara at Denman provides processing services for third parties as well as servicing the needs of its grove. Adina, in Lovedale Road, where we are located also provides processing services, catering more to the small scale grower. We are currently the only organisation providing commercial table olive processing services in the Hunter Valley.
Many cellar doors in the Hunter Valley sell olive products. In some cases the olives may also be grown at the vineyard. The cellar doors may use their own brand or a third party brand such as Hunter Olives. Adina is a good example of a vineyard that also has a commercial olive grove and brands its won olive products. The Hunter Olive Centre in MacDonald Road is a great place to vist to see a representative range of olive products available form the Hunter Valley.