Olive groves in Crete

It was a dif­fi­cult har­vest sea­son for the vast major­ity of the olive oil pro­duc­ers in Crete.

Weather fluc­tu­a­tions and the olive tree pathogens took their toll, with many areas of the island fac­ing a sig­nif­i­cant loss in their yield of olive oil. The total har­vest came out to about 60,000 tons, com­pared to 85,000 tons made last year.

Producers that will not be able to have any income for the next years need sup­port from the state.- Myronas Hilentzakis, assis­tant direc­tor of the Vine and Olive Oil Growers Group of Crete

Apart from the reduced quan­tity and with a few excep­tions, the qual­ity of the olive oil is also infe­rior com­pared to other sea­sons. Some indus­try experts have cal­cu­lated the com­bined dam­age to be some­where between €10 and €15 mil­lion ($11.3 and $17 mil­lion) for the entire island.

Following three years of dry weather, this win­ter was very rainy with unex­pected fluc­tu­a­tions of cold and warm weather in Crete and in most parts of Greece. These unusual weather pat­terns have cre­ated con­cern, not only to olive tree grow­ers, but to the whole agri­cul­tural world of the coun­try.

See more: Greek Olive Oil News

To add insult to injury, there is cur­rently no seri­ous demand for Cretan oil oil from abroad, with prices stay­ing below €3 ($3.40) for one kilo­gram of qual­ity extra vir­gin with an acid­ity level of 0.3 per­cent. Producers have also been reluc­tant to sell cheap should a buyer occur.

“It was a major blow to the island’s olive oil sec­tor,” Myronas Hilentzakis, assis­tant direc­tor of the Vine and Olive Oil Growers Group of Crete, said in ref­er­ence to the adverse weather con­se­quences. “There are olive trees in east­ern Crete that will need three to four years to recover, let alone become pro­duc­tive again.”

“Producers that will not be able to have any income for the next years need sup­port from the state,” he added. “Our olive oil goes unwanted and in only three years we have lost 51 per­cent of exports worth €1 bil­lion ($1.13 bil­lion) for the whole coun­try.”

Since there was no sign for redress from the gov­ern­ment, grow­ers and pro­duc­ers gath­ered in Heraklion to plan their next moves.

They decided to ask for com­pen­sa­tion, pre­sent­ing the Minister of Agriculture with all the data that demon­strates the mag­ni­tude of the dam­age, includ­ing the vol­ume of the yield, the spread of the fruit fly and the pro­duc­tion areas that were hit more by the cli­mate change.

They also agreed to alert the European Commission in order to inter­vene in favor of their claim.

Meanwhile, sci­en­tists called for an expan­sion of olive tree farm­ing, not only in Crete, but in all the olive oil pro­duc­ing ter­ri­to­ries of Greece, which will serve two pur­poses: com­pen­sate for the loss of pro­duc­tion due to the cli­mate change and help keep up with other pro­duc­ing coun­tries that pro­gres­sively increase their out­put of olive oil.

“Most of the olive oil mak­ing coun­tries extend their olive tree cul­ti­va­tions, and who­ever stays behind will face the con­se­quences,” Dimitris Gerasopoulos, pro­fes­sor of Agronomy and Forestry at the University of Thessaloniki, said.

He also warned that from now on the pro­duc­tion of olive oil will have sig­nif­i­cant vari­a­tions mainly due to the changes in weather, so a sea­son with a small yield is more likely than ever before and it would sig­nif­i­cantly harm the exports and the share of Greek olive oil in for­eign mar­kets.

“We should take for granted the big ups and downs in the vol­ume of the pro­duc­tion,” he said. “So, we need to sus­tain a high level of pro­duc­tion in order not to fall back from other pro­duc­ing coun­tries.”


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