During the harvesting season De Rustica Olive Estates provide work for about 100 olive pickers. Photo: Leon Nell
SOUTHERN CAPE NEWS - De Rustica Estates situated along the Oudemuragie road near De Rust, have started harvesting their fist olives.
"The first trees were planted back in 2006," says Managing Director Anthony Stills, who has a degree in Agricultural Economics and a master's degree in Management Studies.
"We planted about 16500 trees on 30 hectares. We have since then planted more trees every year, until 2011. This year we will be able to harvest from the trees planted in 2006 and 2007. In total we have about 78 000 olive trees on 120 hectares and have decided to stick to olive oil only. The pulp of the olives will go back to the soil as fertiliser."
The press which is used to extract the oil will not only be used by De Rustica Estates, but by olive growers from as far afield as Willowmore and Calitzdorp. The press contains state-of-the-art equipment and machinery and its stainless steel holding tanks have a capacity of 72 000 litres. An estimated 300 tonnes of fruit are expected to be harvested this year at De Rustica with a yield of between 55 000 and 60 000 litres of olive oil.
Of particular importance is the cash injection De Rustica Estates (Pty) Ltd is providing to the rural area along the Oudemuragie road.
The harvesting process is labour intensive and 100 Workers are paid on a daily basis to pick olives. "You could say we provide temporary work, on and off, to 100 people over a period of 2½ - 3 months for seasonal pickers," explains Antony. "And it dovetails beautifully for them.
First you get the grape-picking season, then the olive-picking season and finally the harvesting of seed-onions, carrots and pumpkins.
When we advertised for temporary employment, people popped out of nowhere from neighbouring and adjacent farms. We would have loved to accommodate people from Blomnek, but thought it pragmatic to employ people from the immediate vicinity. We could have opted for complete mechanisation but this way we are giving something back to the local community by providing employment." The brand De Rustica Olive Oil was launched at their olive press last night 17 May.
"The greatest challenge still lies ahead of us," says Anthony. "We still have to market our product, and it won't be easy when you know you're in competition with European countries whose governments subsidise some olive farms with up to R20 000 per hectare. We'll have to lean against that brick wall until it crumbles…"