Greek olive oil remains in high demand among national consumers as the country's economic growth is predicted to grind to a halt.
Greeks are buying more olive oil to stock their pantries, but the COVID-19 pandemic is predicted to obliterate the highly anticipated growth of the national economy.
We have to fulfill an order of bottled olive oil from Switzerland and we are worried that we don’t have enough carton packages.
The Bank of Greece has predicted a near-zero growth “with a significant negative effect on the economy during the first two quarters of 2020, to be partially compensated in the two last quarters.” The Greek government announced urgent financial measures to support sectors directly affected by the pandemic, including food service, retailers, distilleries and the tourism industry.
Domestic production and supply of goods and edibles remain unhindered for now. Many consumers, driven by uncertainty, are stocking up on staple food products.See more: Olive Oil Sales Jump While Italian Economy Shrinks from COVID-19
A survey of the Institute for Research of Retail Consumer Goods (IELKA), showed that more than half of respondents have stockpiled rice, pasta, olive oil and flour to last two to three weeks. This is despite the fact that most of them were also confident that stores would not face product shortages any time soon.
The supermarket chains have also reported that the demand for olive oil has increased by more than 100 percent, however, there is no shortage of olive oil bottles on the shelves.
Many Greeks traditionally source olive oil from their privately owned olive groves. Following popular Greek habit, many others buy olive oil in bulk in 17-liter tins, calculated to last them until the next harvest.
Greek importers said that, so far, there is no disruption in products coming in from Europe and especially Italy (the second-largest exporter of products to Greece after Germany), but noted that it is too soon for any export disruptions to be seen.
The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe on exports of Greek agricultural and food products has not yet been felt, although most industry experts predicted the pandemic would result in an ominous business environment.
“We hope for the smoothing of the situation as soon as possible, before our planning is completely overthrown and the momentum of our industry has disappeared,” the Panhellenic Exporters Association said in a statement. “Greek exports enter a challenging period and the [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)] has already predicted a decline in demand and a slowdown of growth in the EU.”
Some food exporters have taken advantage of the opportunity to increase their exports due to the increased demand by Italy for food products, mostly dairy and fish.
“Consumers are rapidly stocking up on food supplies due to the uncertainty. Of course, they also forget about it just as quickly,” the head of an unnamed dairy products company told Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
Despite early increases in business for Greek food exporters, they acknowledged the fact that any turbulence in the foreign markets will not be positive for the sector in the long run.
Unverified rumors have circulated that Germany, the largest consumer of olive oil among the non-producing EU member states, will stop importing Italian olive oil in favor of Greek due to the extreme COVID-19 situation in Italy.
Exporters of olive oil told Olive Oil Times that most of their shipments have already reached their destinations, including Italy, the largest buyer of Greek bulk olive oil, while a few were anxious to fulfill their remaining orders.
“We sent shipments of bulk olive oil to Italy in January and another shipment in early March when the coronavirus crisis was beginning with no problems whatsoever,” the Athens-based Vivelia exporting company told Olive Oil Times. “We are done for the season with our exports.”
Another exporter, Unique Greek Products from Lakonia, told Olive Oil Times that their biggest concern is to secure the packaging materials required for exports of olive oil.
“We have to fulfill an order of bottled olive oil from Switzerland and we are worried that we don’t have enough carton packages,” company representatives said. “Due to the enforced circulation prohibition and the standstill of almost everything, it is almost impossible to get packaging materials and other stuff we need in time from our provider. And even if we manage to send it, there is so much uncertainty everywhere now that we expect anything to happen.”
They noted that the “green lane” border crossings planned by the European Commission to allow transport of goods unhampered by COVID-19 control measures within the EU, could be a solid solution to supply problems in European markets.
Port authorities at Patras, the hub for all goods traveling from Greece to Italy and other western European countries, told Olive Oil Times that cargo containers and trucks carrying agricultural products, including olive oil, are still being shipped to Italy as usual.