Growing Texas olive oil industry needs more research, producers say

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AUSTIN — A popular cooking ingredient is up for discussion at the Texas State Capitol.  
Americans use 90 million gallons of olive oil every year, which is the largest market outside Europe.

Currently, Texas remains second in the nation for producing olives.

“We’re kind of where the wine industry started in the beginning,” Cara Gambini, owner of the Texas Hill County Olive Company, said. 

Texas lawmakers heard from olive growers and olive oil producers at the Capitol Tuesday about the need for more research and backing from the state as the industry continues to grow. 

“Establish a state policy that recognizes the importance of the olive industry,” Michael Paz, president of the Texas Association of Olive Oil, told legislators. 

Paz said legislators should work to create an advisory board to study, plan and coordinate for future industry growth, as well as develop educational opportunities with accredited Texas universities for research. 

“The industry has demonstrated consistent and substantial growth each year, adding acreage in trees and production,” he said. 

John Gambini, also an owner of the Texas Hill County Olive Company, stressed the need for research conducted in Texas. 

“This is a continental climate versus the Mediterranean climate over in Europe and Mediterranean climate in California,” he said. “Those have been really the struggles growers and producers are learning on a year basis how to do better.” 

Olives are drought resistant, making them a viable crop for Texas. 

However, the company says there’s still a lot of learning needed to know what types of varieties grow best in Texas, as well as planting practices that are best for Texas soils and the state’s climate. 

In addition to research, Cara Gambini hopes lawmakers can explore ways to make grants and crop protection insurance available specifically for olive oil producers and olive growers. 

“Those types of things are not really readily available to us at the moment,” Cara said. 

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