Monday, June 02, 2008

The War On Olives

In follow up a recent post about the mysterious disappearance of tons of olives from groves in the Hunter Valley comes this news :

Olive harvests in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales have been demolished by a plague of insects.

The attack by the olive lace bug is a double blow for growers, who are still reeling from a recent spate of thefts that stripped six groves of their olive harvests for the year.

Now an olive shortage is looming across NSW after dozens more growers had their crops wiped out by the bug.

Growers in the Hunter regions of Broke, Pokolbin and Rothbury say the impact from the losses from the thefts and disease will hit state supplies.

Hunter Olive Growers Association secretary Howard Webb said the lace bug was not uncommon but if it was not controlled as soon as it struck it would cripple olive groves and render them unproductive.

"Nearly every grove in the Hunter has been hit, some worse than others," Mr Webb said.

The weather in the past few months had wreaked havoc and was much of the reason for the disease spread, he said.

"It is normally easily controlled, but because of the rain and humidity, it's gotten out of hand," he said.

Mr Webb estimates hundreds of tonnes of olives have been destroyed by the bug.

The Australian native bug chews away at olive tree leaves - it doesn't attack the fruit, but damages the tree and its chances of reproducing next season.

An update on the massive, mysterious olive theft :

More than 800 trees in the Rothbury region were cleaned out over a four-day period, but how is anyone's guess.

"I think it's starlings - they feed off the grape vines and then they make their way to the olive trees," Mr Webb said.

Australian Olive Association president Paul Miller said he was sure it was humans, as animals would have left signs, and that it was astounding how someone overcame 8ft-high barbed-wire fencing to access the 200-strong grove.

"It has obviously been planned," he said.
Who goes to all that trouble to steal $10,000 - $15,000 worth of olives?

Maybe it was starlings after all.