Producers in Crete Stunned by Precarious Crop

A sudden outburst of the fruit fly and other pathogens inflicted unexpected damage on the island's farms.

Crete, Greece
Nov. 18, 2019
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Crete, Greece

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Anx­i­ety has over­whelmed many olive oil pro­duc­ers in Crete as, con­trary to some early pre­dic­tions for a strong yield, this season’s har­vest seems to head toward a poor pro­duc­tion both in terms of quan­tity and qual­ity.

I have never seen such a prob­lem­atic olive oil crop in our area since my involve­ment with the sec­tor back in 1995.- Nek­tar­ios Paraschakis, Agri­cul­tural Asso­ci­a­tion of Cha­nia

The cir­cum­stances are ter­ri­ble all over the island,” said Gior­gos Andreadakis, head of the Cre­tan Asso­ci­a­tion of Olive Oil Bot­tlers.

It will be an achieve­ment to pro­duce 60,000 tons over­all, and most of it will be of infe­rior qual­ity,” Andreadakis added. Once again pro­duc­ers will lose 30 to 40 per­cent of their pro­duc­tion and, in advance, they will not really have any income since most of the fresh olive oil is defec­tive and cat­e­go­rized as lam­pante oil of low value. We can­not even find the vol­ume of qual­ity olive oil we need to stan­dard­ize.”

Myron Hilentza­kis, the deputy direc­tor of the Agri­cul­tural Asso­ci­a­tion of Her­ak­lion, spoke of an unprece­dented predica­ment for grow­ers and pro­duc­ers.

We had never before dealt with lam­pante olive oil and this is an extra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion,” Hilentza­kis said. We have strug­gled for years invest­ing in extra vir­gin olive oil, and now the fruit fly has caused the olives to fall on the ground and, even more, it has affected the acid­ity of the olive oil the remain­ing olives give, lead­ing to a mul­ti­lay­ered prob­lem.”


Agri­cul­tur­ist Var­vara Sfakianakis from the local Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture at Her­ak­lion told Olive Oil Times that the recent weather con­di­tions are to blame for the omi­nous sit­u­a­tion.

Because of the warm and humid weather of the last two months, there was a sud­den out­break of the fruit fly and pathogens like the gloeospo­rium in our area,” she explained. Before the har­vest, we were expect­ing around 40,000 tons of olive oil from the region of Her­ak­lion, but now we are not even close to this. Still, we have to wait for another month to have a com­plete pic­ture of the olive oil yield.”

Sfakianakis con­tin­ued, Due to lack of resources there were some prob­lems with the crop-dust­ing oper­a­tions car­ried out in the sum­mer to fight the fruit fly. On top of that, we observed that the fly has devel­oped some sort of resis­tance to some pes­ti­cides used. In any case, the actual cause of the prob­lem is cli­mate change and the unusual con­di­tions pre­vail­ing in the micro­cli­mate of our area.”

On the west side of Crete, Nek­tar­ios Paraschakis of the Agri­cul­tural Asso­ci­a­tion of Cha­nia described the sit­u­a­tion to Olive Oil Times in its full dimen­sion.

Con­trary to the last pros­per­ous har­vest sea­son, this sea­son is a tragic one so far,” he said. Our mill has pro­duced 150 tons of olive oil up to now, com­pared to 450 tons the same time period last sea­son. And only 15 of the 150 tons are extra vir­gin olive oil.”

The rea­son for the dis­as­trous crop is again no other than the fruit fly and other pathogens, Paraschakis told us.

The tem­per­a­ture here is cur­rently at 25°C (77°F), which is quite high for this time of the year and favors the olive tree pathogens,” he said. So, there was a late man­i­fes­ta­tion of the fruit fly and other microbes that reduced the quan­tity and qual­ity of the crop. Most of the olive oil pro­duced in the area is of high acid­ity with defects and is cat­e­go­rized as lam­pante oil that will be sent to refiner­ies for fur­ther pro­cess­ing. Qual­ity olive oil this year in our area is pro­duced only from some olive groves located on hill slopes.”

Paraschakis sum­moned the state to pro­vide finan­cial sup­port for the dam­age and more means to cope with the fruit fly threat. He also pointed out that local grow­ers and pro­duc­ers should be aware that, from now on and due to the novel cir­cum­stances shaped by the adverse weather, con­stant vig­i­lance and care for the olive trees is required through­out the year for a sub­stan­tial olive oil yield to become fea­si­ble.

I have never seen such a prob­lem­atic olive oil crop in our area since my involve­ment with the sec­tor back in 1995,” Paraschakis revealed while end­ing the con­ver­sa­tion. I am an olive tree grower myself, and I am not sure if I will be able to get some good olive oil from my groves for my fam­ily.”

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