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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