With the harvest season is at its peak, Greek olive oil producers are nagged by cases of crop and oil piracy.
It is this time of the year that if you find yourself roaming the areas of rural Greece, you will most likely come across workers harvesting olives in the olive groves, tractors and pickup trucks loaded with sacks of olives continuously moving back and forth between the groves and the oil mills, and olive oil producers flocking to the mills discussing yield and prices.
The harvesting season is at its peak, but not without its usual challenges. Now, reports are coming in from various areas of the country where cases of theft of olives and freshly made olive oil have occurred.
A few days ago near Messolongi, thieves took eight tons of table olives that were kept by local producers in a warehouse facility. According to the police, they probably loaded the olives on trucks and drove off. No follow-up on the case has made the news yet, despite the volume of the stolen crop.
Last month in the Chalkidiki region in northern Greece, police arrested six people accused of trespassing and harvesting olives from groves that belonged to others. They had allegedly committed the same offense again just days ago in the same area, and had already transferred the loot of more than two tons of olives to a mill for processing.
An elder producer living near Heraklion in Crete discovered that his yield of half-ton of olive oil was missing from his house. He lost not only the oil meant for his own household use but also the income he would have made by selling the surplus to his neighbors, he told the authorities.
In another circumstance, perpetrators invaded a barn at a village near Agrinio in the Aetolia-Acarnania region and removed containers with 2 tons of table olives valued at more than €4,000 ($4,739).
In Central Greece, the regional administration, in an attempt to prevent similar situations, issued a warning to mill owners and olive oil merchants to be cautious when dealing with unfamiliar people and inform the police of anything suspicious during their transactions.
And in several cases thieves also took equipment and machinery like tarps, ladders, chainsaws, and electric harvesters that workers left unattended at the field for the next day’s harvest.
Such incidents come up every year during the harvesting season and even more so during challenging economic times and periods of higher unemployment.