` Olive Oil Permeates Greek Social Fabric in Time of Need - Olive Oil Times

Olive Oil Permeates Greek Social Fabric in Time of Need

Feb. 15, 2021
Costas Vasilopoulos

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Harvest chal­lenges, prices and inter­na­tional and domes­tic mar­kets tend to be the pre­vail­ing con­cerns in the Greek olive oil sec­tor.

However, there are plenty of other ways the olive tree plays a role in Greek soci­ety, out­side of busi­ness bound­aries.

In Crete, the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Heraklion social ser­vices pro­gram received free olive oil through a local gro­cery store.

The olives were har­vested from about 1,300 of the municipality’s olive trees by cit­i­zens belong­ing to vul­ner­a­ble social groups. The program’s ben­e­fits were two-fold: par­tic­i­pants gained paid employ­ment and sup­plied the com­mu­nity store with fresh, local olive oil.

See Also: Greek Painter Dedicates Athens Mural to the History of Olive Oil Production

On the Greek main­land, in south­ern Peloponnese, the Gytheio hunt­ing club bought olive oil from local mills and offered it to fam­i­lies in need of food and other essen­tial sup­plies.

A sim­i­lar ini­tia­tive took place in Etoliko in the west­ern part of con­ti­nen­tal Greece. The local olive oil asso­ci­a­tion donated some of the sea­son’s olive oil to wel­fare cen­ters and social estab­lish­ments.

Besides their sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion to the Greek agri­cul­tural sec­tor, olive trees have also endowed the coun­try with envi­ron­men­tal and aes­thetic ben­e­fits.

In Egaleo, a munic­i­pal­ity of the Athens met­ro­pol­i­tan area, four­teen poorly-placed cen­te­nar­ian olive trees were trans­ferred from the munic­i­pal grove and replanted in other spots around the metro area to bet­ter develop and exhibit their sym­bol­ism and impor­tance to the envi­ron­ment.

The olive tree is a sym­bol of our coun­try, his­tory and cul­ture,” the mayor of Egaleo, Yiannis Gkikas, said. We have already planted small olive trees at places down­town. Now, we took an impor­tant ini­tia­tive of replant­ing and grow­ing cen­te­nar­ian [olive] trees in our city, to pre­serve a pre­cious part of nature.”

At the same time, we ele­vate our city and upgrade its urban fab­ric,” he added. Citizens will now walk more har­mo­niously in the city.”

Planting olive trees can also be a solu­tion for farm­ers look­ing to diver­sify their crop port­fo­lio.

In the moun­tain­ous region of Trikala, in cen­tral Greece, cot­ton and wheat are the agri­cul­tural sta­ples. However, exist­ing olive groves are being expanded. About 100 hectares of olive trees were planted last year, bring­ing the total cover of olive trees in the region to about 1,400 hectares.

The area is expected to pro­duce around 300 tons of olive oil this sea­son, a frac­tion of the yield of the country’s typ­i­cal pro­duc­ing ter­ri­to­ries, but still a sub­stan­tial out­put for local pro­duc­ers.

According to Alexandros Papahatzis, a pro­fes­sor of arbori­cul­ture at the University of Thessaly, olive tree cul­ti­va­tion has become increas­ingly appeal­ing to local farm­ers.

The farm­ers have been search­ing for a long-liv­ing tra­di­tional crop that is also well-adapted to the area’s micro­cli­mate, which has expe­ri­enced increas­ingly warmer win­ters due to cli­mate change.

The typ­i­cal olive cul­ti­vars in the area are Megaritiki and Konservolia, with the fruits of the lat­ter used for table olive pro­duc­tion as well.

However, Papahatzis advised the farm­ers to turn to olive cul­ti­vars that are more resilient to lower tem­per­a­tures, such as the Maronia, which is native to the north­ern area of Komotiniand, and Serres Leykolia vari­eties. The lat­ter can even with­stand the weight of snow due to its hang­ing and flex­i­ble branches.

Apart from grow­ers, new olive groves can also ben­e­fit the envi­ron­ment, as an olive farm on the island of Lesvos has demon­strated.

Near the small town of Sigri, a pre­vi­ously bar­ren area has been trans­formed to a vast farm of 40,000 olive trees, com­pris­ing twelve Greek and other Mediterranean olive vari­eties on the west­ern side of the island.

The sur­round­ings of Sigri are rocky, and the exist­ing oak trees had been cut down for fire­wood before Antonis Tripintiris decided to start his olive farm on the rocky and dry land.

We have a lot of sun, but we also have rain,” Tripintiris said. We planted the olive trees by lit­er­ally dig­ging up the rock and we used sea­weed com­post as well as organic live­stock manure as fer­til­izer. At the same time, we have cre­ated bio­di­ver­sity on our farm with fig, almond trees, pome­gran­ate and even palm trees.”

The 40,000 olive trees on our farm coun­ter­bal­ance the car­bon foot­print of 2,000 peo­ple,” he added. They reduce the green­house emis­sions and their roots pro­tect the soil from ero­sion. The shade of the trees reduces the atmos­pheric tem­per­a­ture and tem­pers the inten­sity of the wind. The soil becomes fer­tile, regen­er­at­ing flora and fauna of our vil­lage.”

Sometimes olive oil sec­tor pro­fes­sion­als rel­e­gate their sheer busi­ness oper­a­tions and turn the spot­light on other impor­tant mat­ters that stem from the pre­vail­ing cir­cum­stances like the long-last­ing coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Prodromos Saliagkas of OlixOil has set the company’s pri­or­i­ties to respond to the require­ments of the time. Our phi­los­o­phy, as a com­pany, is to meet the needs of all our cus­tomers around the world,” Saliagkas told Olive Oil Times.

We want to make them know the Greek fla­vors which have been praised world­wide and to be able to enjoy the ben­e­fits of the best diet in the world, the Mediterranean. In these dif­fi­cult times, how­ever, It is our top pri­or­ity to pro­tect our peo­ple, inter­nally and exter­nally, stay safe and healthy, while at the same time con­tinue being fully oper­a­tive in all aspects of the busi­ness,” he added.

Saliagkas said that, due to the con­di­tions, part of their busi­ness had been trans­ferred online. An e‑shop was launched for their extra vir­gin olive oil Ladelia, a Silver Award win­ner in the 2020 edi­tion of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

We con­sider it as our respon­si­bil­ity and duty to con­tinue to offer our ser­vices and pro­vide fresh and healthy prod­ucts as a small con­tri­bu­tion to this great, global strug­gle,” he con­cluded.





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