The Texas Department of Agriculture reports the Lone Star State’s olive industry is poised for unprecedented growth in 2008, thanks to advances in olive tree production and an increased demand for olive oil. The industry was first established in 1994 with roughly 20,000 trees on four orchards. Today, the number of olive trees has grown to 97,000 with plans for another 25,000 plantings this fall.

“The Texas olive industry holds a great deal of promise for consumers and our economy,” said Commissioner Todd Staples. “As Texans look for healthier foods and ways to improve their eating habits, olive oil is becoming a key ingredient to their diets. Our state’s olive growers have demonstrated a commitment to growing their businesses and our economy, and the numbers speak for themselves. We look forward to the future prosperity of the expanding Texas olive industry.”

Last year, 2,000 gallons of 100 percent Texas olive oil were pressed and bottled. The projection for 2008 is much better. The yield is estimated to be 250 tons of Texas olives, contributing to 7,500 gallons of olive oil.

Jim Henry is the founder of the Texas Olive Oil Council and says the state’s emerging olive industry stands to play a role in meeting a growing worldwide demand.

“The United States produces less than one percent of the world’s olive supply, but we consume 20 percent of the oil. Demand is increasing by more than 30 percent worldwide each year,” Henry said. “Texas producers are watching this trend and plan to capitalize on it. My projections are half a million olive trees will be growing in Texas by 2010.”

The USDA has been conducting research to determine the best growing practices and best varieties for Texas. Olive varieties that have been most successful in the state include the Arbquina, Arbasana and Korneiki.