La Ruta del Olivo en Uruguay

Uruguay olive plantations are now on par with Tuscany in terms of beauty and oil quality. (Source: Paula)

The Uruguay olive trail gained some Extra Virgin credibility in 2013 when it became only the second country in the Southern Hemisphere to join the prestigious International Olive Council. Now foreign investors and tourists are beginning to take note.

Oro Verde (Green Gold) is the title of an El Pais feature article showcasing the growing number of plantations along Uruguay’s burgeoning olive trail which now encompasses 6,000 hectares of olive trees including Picual, Arbequina, Barnea, Coratina, Manzanilla, Frantoio and Leccino among others.

“This expansion occurred thanks to soil studies showing the great potential of thousands of hectares of Uruguay land with good drainage plus sandy and rocky soils, land that is often not good for traditional agriculture,” writes Yelly Barrios.

While the country’s first olive plantations appeared in the remote north in the 40’s and 50’s, today’s olive plantations are more likely to be found in coastal departments like Colonia, Canelones, Lavalleja, Maldonado and Rocha. The author visits several of these plantations like O’33, Colinas de Garzon and Finca Babieca now welcoming foreign visitors with olive oil tastings, plantation tours, casual picnics, horseback riding, live music and even hot air ballon rides.

Barrios says Uruguay olive growers have benefited greatly over the past decade from the National Institute of Agriculture Research (INIA) efforts to help farmers with selecting trees with proper genetics, soil management, pruning and other technical aspects key to producing Extra Virgin olive oil with very low acidity.

The author concludes, “The initial seeds planted were good and have positioned the local olive oil industry to compete in international markets with quality standards that don’t envy the products coming from the Mediterranean where traditionally the world’s best Extra Virgin olive oil originates.”

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