Yesterday, unemployed: Today, South Africa’s first black olive oil producer

For Loyiso Manga, the light that guided him through the darkness of unemployment was his desire to connect our people to the benefits of olive oil. Fast-forward two or so years and meet the new Loyisa Manga, founder of Ubuntu Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), whose products can be seen on the shelves of Woolworths stores nationwide.

Apart from being the mastermind behind South Africa’s first successfully established black-owned olive oil farming enterprise, he has since also gone on to win a Gold Award at the World Olive Oil Competition. Plus, he is in the process of obtaining Halaal certification for Ubuntu EVOO’s products.

So, the obvious question is, “Is there room for more olive oil producers in South Africa, and is it a viable industry to get into?” Well, the short answer to that is a simple “yes”. The longer answer is that South Africa currently consumes around 3.5 million litres of olive oil yearly, of which less than 20% is produced locally!

These figures are also expected to continue growing, as consumers become more aware of the benefits of olive oil. These can, simply put, be summed up as offering better health, healthier hair and healthier skin. When it comes to better health, olive oil is packed with powerful antioxidants that protect us against free radicals that cause ageing.

Studies show that when frequently consumed, olive oil can improve our brain and heart health and help prevent strokes and other serious diseases like cancer and diabetes. Using olive oil on hair promotes hair growth and makes the hair healthier, shinier and stronger and using it on the scalp can help to reduce dandruff.

Then, talking about healthier skin, olive oil has both anti-inflammatory and anti-aging qualities. For this reason, it is used to heal wounds and treat skin issues such as acne. It is also used to moisturise the skin, decrease age damage and boost collagen production for a fresher, more youthful look. No wonder olive oil is fast becoming one of those must-haves on every household grocery list!

What does one need to produce olive oil? Well, for starters, you’ll need olives. To make one litre of olive oil, you’ll need between four and five kilos of olives. Once you have your olives, you will need some space and equipment for the process of making olive oil, which includes an olive crusher, a centrifuge, and an oil pressing machine.

Simply put, the process to make olive oil involves crushing the olives into a paste, shaking it until the oil separates from the rest (pulp, bone, skin and water), and pressing the oil out (this is called cold processing). Thereafter, the oil is decanted and stored for at least 24-48 hours so any of the remaining impurities can be filtered out. 

From here, the quality of the oil is evaluated, so it can be packaged and labelled accordingly. Based on quality, there are generally five types of olive oil on the market, which are: extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, pure olive oil, refined olive oil and olive pomace oil. 

Extra virgin olive oil is the best qualify olive oil because it is cold processed so extensively that the content does not change when it is exposed to high temperatures. Pomace olive oil is the lowest quality olive oil on the market, as it is made from all the remains that are left when the pressing of the olives is completed. 

To learn more about the process of making olive oil, we suggest you do what other emerging farmers are doing: watch YouTube videos. However, according to Loyiso, the most challenging part is actually to find enough, good quality olives. 

Even though us South Africans also love to eat olives, most of the current olive farms in South Africa grow olives to produce olive oil. Yet, there are not nearly enough of them, as about two thirds of what we need for olive oil productions is still imported.

So, if you have the means and the appetite to start growing your own olives, look at this useful article we found on www.southafrica.info, which explains both olive farming and olive oil production quite extensively: https://southafrica.co.za/olives.html. Follow @NicheFarmers on Facebook to connect, share and learn with other niche farmers.