SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Olive harvest season is getting started in California and farmers are concerned this could be one of the worst in recent memory.

California leads the nation in olive oil production, but now there may be a shortage. It’s a significant setback for a growing industry just two years removed from its largest crop.

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“Most people are down anywhere between 15 and 40 percent, there are some that are actually down 100 percent and they’re not even going to harvest this year,” said Karen Bond, president of the California Olive Oil Council.

The culprit? Weather causing confusion for the crops. An above-average February was followed by a chilly weather.

“The olive trees thought it was springtime and they should start blooming,” she said. “When the frost hit, a lot of the blossoms were destroyed.”

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In 2017, California farmers produced 4.1 Million gallons of olive oil according to the California Olive Oil Council.
This year’s harvest is projected to produce only 2.8 Million gallons.

Farmers made the switch to olive trees in the last decade as California was hit with a record drought. The trees are drought tolerant and wouldn’t be as affected by water restrictions. As an added bonus, the U.S. has seen a 40 percent increase in demand for California olive oil.

“California is the best climate in the U.S. for olives,” she said.

That demand has firefighters willing to weather a down year in hopes of coming back next year. Growers say the unseasonable weather shifts won’t permanently impact the health of the resilient trees.

“Olives are phenomenal in wanting to live,” she said.

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(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include new harvest statistics provided by the California Olive Oil Council.)