Europe

Kalamata Olives to be Added to Greek National List of Plant Varieties

Officials in Greece want to commercialize the Kalamata name to enhance trade prospects.

Feb. 26, 2018
By Costas Vasilopoulos

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Dur­ing a con­ven­tion held in Patras ear­lier this month the Greek Min­is­ter of Rural Devel­op­ment and Food, Van­ge­lis Apos­tolou, announced that the Kala­mata cul­ti­var of table olives would make its way to the national list of plant vari­eties of Greece. The aim is to enable the co-exis­tence of two dis­tinct prod­ucts — Kala­mata Olives and Kala­mata Olives PDO — pro­vid­ing a solu­tion for pro­duc­ers that exist out­side the Messinia region.

We want to strengthen Kala­mata olives PDO’ by ele­vat­ing its qual­ity stan­dards and at the same time enable the Kala­mata cul­ti­var to be freely traded in the Euro­pean and inter­na­tional mar­kets.- Van­ge­lis Apos­tolou, Min­is­ter of Rural Devel­op­ment and Food

Cur­rently, the Kala­mata olives vari­ety car­ries a Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin (PDO) tag, used to com­mu­ni­cate its qual­ity to con­sumers in the Euro­pean Union and beyond. A PDO is ascribed after a lengthy and stren­u­ous process where tech­ni­cal require­ments must be met.

PDO labels are, how­ever, by default geo­graph­i­cally bounded to refer to prod­ucts made only in spe­cific areas of Euro­pean Union coun­try mem­bers. In the case of Kala­mata olives, the label is used specif­i­cally for olive fruits pro­duced in the region of Messinia in the south­west of the coun­try, caus­ing pro­duc­ers in other areas to com­plain about the under­min­ing of their olives which are also of the same vari­ety.

Now, the min­is­ter has stepped in to address the issue by pledg­ing to add the Kala­mata olives cul­ti­var (some­times mar­keted as Kala­mon olives) to the national list of plant vari­eties, cre­at­ing a new com­mer­cial vari­ety of table olives.

Apos­tolou explained that the inten­tion of the Min­istry is to pro­mote both prod­ucts and gain even larger mar­ket shares. Greece ranks sec­ond in the world when it comes to table olives exports,” he said. The value of exports exceeds €300 mil­lion ($366 mil­lion) and most of it comes from Kala­mata olives of which 80 per­cent of the entire pro­duc­tion, around 40,000 tons, is exported.”

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A total of 21 com­pa­nies have been cer­ti­fied in the pro­cess­ing and pack­ag­ing of PDO Kala­mata olives and quan­ti­ties came in at 190 tons in 2011, 53 tons in 2012, 233 tons in 2014, and 277 tons in 2015. Kala­mata olives that did not bear the PDO badge faced a lot of prob­lems dur­ing the last five years… This allowed our inter­na­tional com­peti­tors to take advan­tage and fill the gaps in the mar­kets by repeat­edly using the Kala­mata olives’ label to name their prod­ucts,” Apos­tolou explained.

With the sug­gested solu­tion, which is in accor­dance with the leg­is­la­tion of the Euro­pean Union, we intend to enable both prod­ucts to exist and intro­duce poli­cies that will rein­force their mar­ket posi­tion. In other words, we want to strengthen Kala­mata olives PDO’ by ele­vat­ing its qual­ity stan­dards and at the same time enable the Kala­mata cul­ti­var to be freely traded in the Euro­pean and inter­na­tional mar­kets.”

Unsur­pris­ingly, the minister’s state­ment did not go with­out crit­i­cism in Messinia. SYMEPOP, the asso­ci­a­tion of the local pro­duc­ers of table olives, opposed the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of the Kala­mata olives name by argu­ing that Greece has abol­ished its PDO tags for many prod­ucts and now plans to do the same for Kala­mata olives, one of its stronger brand names in the food sec­tor world­wide.

The mayor of the city of Kala­mata, Panayi­o­tis Nikas, sum­moned Apos­tolou to revoke his cat­a­strophic deci­sion” which, if sus­tained, will enable any­one in the world to name their prod­ucts Kala­mata olives pro­vided that they are of the Kala­mata cul­ti­var.”

It remains to be seen in what way the release of the name usage will affect the pro­duc­tion and exports.





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