Production in Turkey Stumbles After Bad Harvest, but Trends Upwards

Even as some predict Turkey could become the world’s second largest olive oil producer, the country’s changing climate is forcing olive farmers and producers to do things they have never needed to do before.

View of Aegean sea and landscape in Ayvalik, Turkey.
By Daniel Dawson
Dec. 18, 2018 09:42 UTC
View of Aegean sea and landscape in Ayvalik, Turkey.

Olive oil pro­duc­tion in Turkey dipped by 37 per­cent for the 2018/19 crop year, accord­ing to data pro­vided to Olive Oil Times by the International Olive Council (IOC).

We believe that our yield will increase much more accord­ing to the num­ber of trees and we will con­se­quently achieve the tar­get of world’s sec­ond pro­ducer.- Ümmühan Tibet, UZZK

However, Turkish olive oil pro­duc­tion is trend­ing upwards and, in spite of his year being an off-year in the world’s fifth-largest olive oil pro­duc­ing coun­try, the yield is esti­mated to be higher than it was in three of the past four har­vest sea­sons.

The IOC esti­mated that Turkey will pro­duce 183,000 tons of oil this crop year, a 2.8 per­cent increase com­pared with the pre­vi­ous off-year har­vest (2016/17) and a 14.4 per­cent increase com­pared with the off-year before that (2014/15).

This steady increase has been fueled by the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture’s mas­sive plant­ing pro­grams that have taken place over the bet­ter part of the past two decades.
See Also:The best olive oils from Turkey

Turkey has had an increase in its olive tree pop­u­la­tion in the past 10 to 15 years,” Chris Dologh, the gen­eral man­ager at Kristal Oil and board mem­ber of the IOC, told Olive Oil Times. Now we are sec­ond after Spain in terms of the num­ber of olive trees planted.”

Many of these trees, which were planted as saplings, are now enter­ing full matu­rity. This, Dologh points out, has fueled the recent boom in olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Last year, Turkey pro­duced a record high 263,000 tons. This was the sec­ond time the coun­try has exceeded the 200,000-ton bench­mark, with the last time being back in 1996/97. Dologh believes that soon Turkey will exceed this bench­mark every year, even in off-years.

However, to do that, he acknowl­edged, Turkish pro­duc­ers will need to use more indus­trial agri­cul­tural prac­tices.

Since pro­duc­tion is still not done at the indus­trial level like it is in Spain, the pro­duc­tion yield is not as high as it could be,” Dologh said.

Ümmühan Tibet, the chair­man of the board of Turkey’s Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK, as it is known by its Turkish ini­tials), believes that Turkey has the poten­tial to become the world’s sec­ond-largest pro­ducer of olive oil, but also acknowl­edged that cli­mate change will ulti­mately deter­mine the sector’s future suc­cess.

Our olive indus­try has been con­tin­u­ously devel­op­ing after newly planted saplings began pro­duc­ing fruits,” Tibet told Olive Oil Times. We believe that our yield will increase much more accord­ing to the num­ber of trees and we will con­se­quently achieve the tar­get of world’s sec­ond pro­ducer with this olive oil pro­duc­tion amount.“

However, this devel­op­ment can’t be com­pletely reflected on pro­duc­tion fig­ures due to the effect of global warm­ing and adverse weather con­di­tions expe­ri­enced for the last four to five years,” she added.

This year, Turkish pro­duc­ers espe­cially felt the effects of cli­mate change. An unusu­ally hot and dry sum­mer caused olive trees to drop their fruit a month ear­lier than expected, mean­ing the har­vest began in September instead of October.

The olives ripened early due to hot and dry sum­mer. Most of the olives were black even in mid-late September in some areas,” Bahar Alan, co-owner of Ayvalık-based Nova Vera, told Olive Oil Times. The weather was too warm until the end of October, which was not good for the early har­vested olive oils espe­cially.”

Alan expects a pro­duc­tion decrease by as much as 30 per­cent this year, much of which he attrib­uted to the dry weather. A recent cli­mate report pub­lished by the Istanbul Policy Center, an inde­pen­dent research insti­tute, con­cluded that key agri­cul­tural regions in Turkey will likely con­tinue to dry out.

Currently, the coun­try is expe­ri­enc­ing a period of drought, and cli­mate pro­jec­tions indi­cate a fall in water poten­tial,” the report said. Additionally, the Aegean Region, one of the most impor­tant regions for fruit pro­duc­tion, will be also adversely affected as a result of tem­per­a­ture increase.”


If this trend con­tin­ues, Alan said he will begin installing drip irri­ga­tion sys­tems on his trees, which are located in the north­ern Aegean region. These trees, Alan said, have never needed irri­ga­tion before.

We are plan­ning to imple­ment irri­ga­tion sys­tems in these groves as well to pro­tect the prod­uct qual­ity,” he said. We hope that 2019/20 will be a bet­ter year.”

Farther south of Ayvalık, in the south­west­ern cor­ner of the Aegean region, Merve Doran, the co-owner of Oleamea, expe­ri­enced sub­stan­tial losses as well.

In terms of both qual­ity and quan­tity, it was­n’t as good com­pared to last year,” she told Olive Oil Times. We were not sur­prised, but still very much dis­ap­pointed with the results.”

Doran attrib­uted these losses not only to the dry sum­mer, but also to a whole slew of other cli­mate irreg­u­lar­i­ties.

Because of the shift­ing in the sea­sons, spring rain­fall arrives later than it used to and this delays our tim­ing for the har­vest period,” she said. Also, we were hit by heavy rain­fall and freeze, which reduced the size of our crop.”

Like Alan, she believes the crop will rebound in 2019/20, but does not hold an overly opti­mistic view of the sector’s future.

Compared to this year, yes we expect a rebound for the 2019/20 har­vest year,” she said. However again, com­pared to a decade ago, it is not going to be the same. As peo­ple who deal with agri­cul­ture day-to-day know, the true value of soil, water and weather, is never going to be like the old times.”

While not directly acknowl­edg­ing these sen­ti­ments, Ümmühan Tibet said that cli­mate change is some­thing that all IOC mem­ber states will need to address and she sees com­mon ground for coop­er­a­tion on this front.

Undoubtedly, cli­mate change is also adversely affect­ing other tra­di­tional olive pro­duc­ing coun­tries located in the Mediterranean region like our coun­try,” she said. In this respect, we have to research how we can [mit­i­gate the effects] of cli­mate change, and tell our pro­duc­ers the results of this research.”


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