The certification process for 14 varieties of olive is underway at the state-run Olive Tree Institute of ELGO Demetra based in Chania, a development that Greek Nurseries are watching with great interest but also caution as it could satisfy their long-standing demand for certified propagating material.
As explained by Sotiris Salis, chairman of the Hellenic Association of Greek Nurseries “the stakes are high because this is perhaps our only opportunity to compete on an equal footing with other rival countries trading in certified propagating material for olive trees.”
The questions that need to be addressed are many, including when the certified foundation stock will be ready in Chania, but also how and in what quantities it can be made available to the nurseries so that they can proceed with the production of certified material. On top of this, ELGO still needs to pick a partner from the private industry who would be able to jointly produce tree saplings in case demand for certified saplings turns out to outrun supply.
ELGO – Demetra currently reassures the nurseries that material will be ready for release by the end of the year. But nursery owners remain cautious and express concern regarding potential delays in producing the certified olive tree saplings. For as long as they do not have certified material, and on the basis of the legislation currently in force at the community level, the movement of olive tree saplings outside the country’s borders is prohibited.
At a later stage, the selected varieties will be able to be registered in the National Catalog — a process for which certification is a necessary step. As long as this is delayed, the risk of “theft” of Greek olive varieties remains a problem, as in the case with Koroneiki I‑38.
“In the absence of mother plants there can be no production and trade. The certification of olive tree saplings which is beginning now comes with a 30-year delay. Still, it is of prime importance that the material that exists now is certified and put into production,” Salis said. Once all controls have been completed, the material produced in the plantations of ELGO Demetra in Chania will be at the disposal of Greek nurseries so that they can produce high-quality olive reproductive material.
Every nursery will have to acquire the certified material and create its own mother plants. Among the conditions that nursery business will have to fulfill to trade in certified material include being registered in the Register of Propagating Material as well as meet the current phytosanitary requirements. Moreover, they should keep the plants in insect screens if placed on the ground ensure that the surface on which they stand is disinfected. Plants should be appropriately labeled to demonstrate their source of supply, while tree saplings should only be reproduced for one generation and only by grafting.
EFA believes that “the current project raises critical issues about the need for greater professionalism and seriousness of Greek production and the competitiveness of the nursery sector regarding olive tree material on an international level”, as Salis said. According to him, the effort currently underway can the benefit of all nurseries since the material produced, certified will be high-quality material offering much-needed guarantees to Greek growers. “Finally, EFA is closely watching the effort at once having both confidence in the services of our country but also realizing that it is too soon to tell how it will roll out,” he said. Among the varieties selected for certification are the most commercial Greek varieties of Koroneiki, Megaritiki, Manaki, Patrinis, Chalkidiki, Amfissis, Kalamon, Adramitini, Lianolia as well as two international ones Picual and Arbequina.
Olive Oil Times and the Greek publication Agronews are working together to bring you agricultural news from Greece.