The Greek deputy minister of agriculture stirred up controversy last month when she suggested restricting the use of the Kalamata Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) solely for olives grown in the region of Messenia, on the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula.
“The decision of the previous government to add the Kalamata olives cultivar to the national list of plant varieties as synonymous to the existing Kalamon cultivar has created a multitude of problems and a major disruption to all players,” Fotini Arambatzi said.
After a fierce backlash from large portions of the Greek table olive sector, however, Arambatzi backed away from her claim.
If formally put into legislation, the move would have repealed a 2018 law, which expanded the use of the PDO to Kalamata olives grown throughout Greece.
The deputy minister’s announcement came as the association of Messenian producers of Kalamata olives has appealed the 2018 legislation through the country’s judicial system. The case is expected to land in front of the Greek supreme court in May.
Doepel, the Greek interprofessional association of table olives, were among the organizations opposed to Arambatzi’s idea and argued that the change would hurt all Greek table olive producers. According to Doepel, 97 percent of the Kalamata olives in Greece are produced in areas outside Messenia.
The 2018 legislation enabled olive producers from all over the country to take advantage of using the Kalamata PDO, which has helped grow Greek table olive exports to more than €200 million ($223 million).
According to Georgios Varemenos, a member of the Greek parliament, the 2018 law increased Kalamata table olive exports from 300 tons to 60,000 tons.
Arambatzi has since struck a more reconciliatory tone. After meeting with Doepel executives, the deputy minister reconsidered and pledged to go along with the current usage of the Kalamata geographical indicator.
“In this time of responsibility for our country, we join forces and we work together for the benefit of our society and the national economy,” the agriculture ministry said in a press release. “We consider our main priority to be the increase in exports of all our agricultural products and table olives in particular… We will work for the well-meaning interests of Greek table olives producers, processors, canners and exporters.”
For now, Greek producers can continue to use the Kalamata PDO, regardless of where the olives are grown. Depending on the supreme court’s ruling, however, this may soon change.