Olives and olive oil are instantly recognizable signifiers of Italian food and culture – but Italy isn't the only country where olives have played an important role in agricultural development. Nearly 12,000 kilometers away on the other side of the Equator, the South American country of Argentina has also had a love affair with the olive tree – but the history of Argentine olive cultivation is a much more checkered one. At Lucini Italia, we're passionate about crafting the finest extra virgin olive oils and other gourmet Italian ingredients, so we wanted to delve into the tumultuous history Argentine olive cultivation.
From Colonial Decrees to Modern Monetary Motives
Initially, olive trees came to Argentina with its colonization by Spain in the 16th century. Olive trees grow here between 35 and 45 degrees of latitude in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and Argentina happens to be situated perfectly for the cultivation of this Mediterranean species. Accordingly, the olive trees brought from Europe flourished in Argentina, to the point where Spanish king Charles III feared that the Argentine olive oil market posed too much competition to Spain's own production. Accordingly, Charles III ordered a cessation of olive oil production in Argentina and that all the olive trees be cut down.
This could have been the end of Argentina's olive tree story, but some farmers asked to keep one or two trees alive for their own personal consumption, and some stories even say one olive grove, located in Arauco in the region of La Rioja, was kept alive by Doña Expectación de la Fuente de Avilla. In any case, some olive trees survived the king's order, enough to sustain a wild, breeding population. Over time, this population adapted to the unique climate and soil of Argentina, eventually evolving into its own distinct, indigenous species: the Arauco olive.
Olive cultivation stayed in the rear of Argentina's agricultural industry until the 1930s, when a government campaign to encourage cultivation eventually led to the cultivation of over 7 million trees. However, in the 60s, agricultural turned towards wine grapes, and an anti-olive oil consumption campaign lead to more than 20,000 hectares of olive trees being uprooted, reducing the population by over 50%. It wasn't until the 1990s when global olive oil prices began to rise and European production began to fall, that Argentina's olive production industry started to heat up again. Today, Argentina boasts a sizable olive cultivation industry and produces many varieties of extra virgin olive oil from both the indigenous Arauco olive and other varietals.
Order Argentinian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
From our Lucini brand, we're proud to craft a line of premium Argentinian extra virgin olive oil. From our California Olive Ranch Brand, Argentina is a source country for our Global Blend line of products. We can't wait for you to experience the worlds of flavor that the humble olive has to offer: whether of the Argentine, Californian or Italian variety!