Lower Volumes Forecast As Harvest in Greece Hits Its Stride

A reduction in quality and quantity is expected In the majority of olive oil making territories compared to last year

Nov. 27, 2018
By Costas Vasilopoulos

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With the har­vest­ing sea­son under­way in Greece, Greek olive oil pro­duc­tion is expected to be sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the pre­vi­ous sea­son. Some early esti­ma­tions have cal­cu­lated it at around 240,000 tons, down by more than 30 per­cent com­pared to the 350,000 tons of olive oil came out of the mills last year.

The fruit fly inva­sion and other pathogens like the gloeospo­rium that attacked the olives this year, com­bined with the fact that this is an off’ sea­son for many areas due to the pro­duc­tion cycle of olive trees, will ulti­mately lead to less olive oil pro­duced in the country. 

In Crete, only the areas of Kolymvavi and Apokoronas near Chania are set for a good pro­duc­tion, with other areas like the usu­ally boun­ti­ful ter­ri­to­ries of Heraklion and Lasithi suf­fer­ing a big loss. 

We antic­i­pate a strong pro­duc­tion, big­ger than last year,” Nektarios Paraschakis of the Agricultural Association of Chania to Olive Oil Times. The rest of Crete has really a prob­lem­atic sea­son with low quan­ti­ties and in advance, many pro­duc­ers have issues with the qual­ity of their oil due to the fruit fly and other dis­eases, but our area is unaf­fected. We get acidi­ties of 0.3 to 0.4 for our extra vir­gin, mean­ing that it will be of high quality.” 

Last season’s olive oil yield of the region of Chania came in at about 22,000 tons.

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Other areas are also expected to have a reduced pro­duc­tion, like Lakonia where last year’s 25,000 tons are expected to be dimin­ished by 50 to 60 per­cent this sea­son, and the Ilia region in west Peloponnese where the har­vest will be only 13,000 to 15,000 tons of more than 30,000 tons usu­ally made there.

The island of Lesvos gave more than 12,000 tons of qual­ity olive oil last year, but now things are worse than ever with most of the pro­duc­tion already lost due to the weather ups and downs and the fruit fly catastrophe.

In other olive oil-mak­ing ter­ri­to­ries like Chalkidiki, Aetolia-Acarnania, and Thasos island, big reduc­tions in quan­ti­ties are also expected.

Amid the unpromis­ing crop, an encour­ag­ing sign for pro­duc­ers in var­i­ous areas of the coun­try is that the acid­ity lev­els have started to improve, as the first loads of fruit infected by flies have been processed and the newly har­vested olive fruits are in bet­ter shape. 

In the areas of Messinia and Lakonia, some pro­duc­ers are delighted to see acidi­ties of 0.4 to 0.5 com­pared to 0.7 or 0.8 before, mean­ing that they are get­ting bet­ter extra vir­gin oil that will sell for a higher price. 

And due to the scarcity of extra vir­gin olive oil this sea­son, a never-seen-before prac­tice of Greek pro­duc­ers is to sell for dif­fer­ent prices accord­ing to the level of acid­ity of their extra vir­gins, get­ting higher prices for lower acid­ity levels. 

Trying to tackle the fruit fly prob­lem, and with pro­duc­ers from all over the coun­try protest­ing about the late and insuf­fi­cient mea­sures applied each year, the Ministry of Agriculture promised that it will opt for bet­ter man­age­ment and coor­di­na­tion of local author­i­ties and will pro­vide the nec­es­sary fund­ing sooner than in pre­vi­ous years. 

Some experts of the olive oil indus­try have cal­cu­lated the total loss for grow­ers and pro­duc­ers some­where between €300 to €500 mil­lion ($340 to $567 mil­lion) for this sea­son, not includ­ing the loss of oth­ers in the pro­duc­tion chain like bot­tlers and exporters.

They also noted that due to the reduced vol­umes of olive oil com­ing from Italy and Greece, Spain is expected to make almost half of the world’s olive oil this sea­son and they will set the prices for extra vir­gin and vir­gin olive oil for the global industry.

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