Pressure Mounts in Greece to Settle Dispute Over Kalamata Appellation

Producers are asking the government to repeal a law allowing the term ‘Kalamata’ to be used outside of Messenia. A new PDO designation could be the solution.
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Mar. 3, 2021 09:03 UTC

Table olives of the Kalamon cul­ti­var con­tinue to divide the sec­tor in Greece, with pro­duc­ers in the Messenia region and their coun­ter­parts else­where in the coun­try engaged in a debate over the use of the Kalamata olives’ brand name.

Until 2018, Kalamon olives pro­duced in Messenia were mar­keted under the name PDO Kalamata olives / Elia Kalamatas,’ while the olives of the same cul­ti­var grown in other areas of the coun­try were mar­keted only as Kalamon olives.’

The law in dis­pute enables any­one inside or out­side of the coun­try to mar­ket Kalamon olives under the brand name Kalamata olives.- Yiannis Pazios, Association of PDO Producers of Messenia

A law intro­duced that year added the Kalamata olives cul­ti­var to the national list of plant vari­eties of Greece and iden­ti­fied it as syn­ony­mous with the Kalamon cul­ti­var.

This enabled Greek pro­duc­ers out­side of Messenia to mar­ket their olives under the Kalamata’ brand name – with­out the Protected Designation of Origin tag – and improved their abil­ity to sell these olives abroad due to the PDO’s appeal with con­sumers.

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Since then, olive pro­duc­ers in Messenia have been protest­ing the new leg­is­la­tion, claim­ing that it causes great dis­rup­tion to the sec­tor by enabling other coun­tries to use the Kalamata name.

The sit­u­a­tion has cre­ated many prob­lems all over the coun­try, not only in Messenia, which is the Protected Designation of Origin region, but also for the whole Kalamon cul­ti­var,” said Yiannis Pazios of Symepop, the asso­ci­a­tion of PDO pro­duc­ers of Messenia. The law in dis­pute enables any­one inside or out­side of the coun­try to mar­ket Kalamon olives under the brand name Kalamata olives.”

The min­is­te­r­ial deci­sion must be repealed because arti­cle 13.2 of Regulation 1151, which reg­u­lates PDO prod­ucts, pro­hibits a term that is reg­is­tered as a PDO from being used as a vari­ety syn­onym,” he added.

The Messenian pro­duc­ers have also appealed to the Supreme Court of Greece to over­turn the 2018 leg­is­la­tion.

Industry experts and local offi­cials in other table olive-pro­duc­ing areas have asked for the leg­is­la­tion to remain, assert­ing that it widely ben­e­fits Greek pro­duc­ers.

“[To repeal the law] would be a mon­u­men­tal own goal,” agri­cul­tur­ist Popi Aggeli said. It will deprive the mar­kets of thou­sands of tons of qual­ity Greek olives each year. Trying to sus­tain for­eign mar­kets with the approx­i­mately 400 tons of [Kalamata] olives exclu­sively of Messenian ori­gin seems like a bad joke.”

Kostas Lyros, the mayor of Messolonghi, a city in the Aetolia-Acarnania region which is the largest pro­ducer of Kalamon olives in Greece, has asked the min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture to cre­ate a PDO Kalamon cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

A per­ma­nent request of the Kalamon olive pro­duc­ers from Aetolia-Acarnania, Fthiotida, and else­where except Messenia is to expand the usage of PDO Kalamon name and cover the pro­duc­tion [of olives] in all of the coun­try,” Lyros wrote in a let­ter to the min­istry. Kalamon olives should become a national PDO prod­uct.”

Untangling the con­fu­sion is no easy task; since the Kalamata cul­ti­var of table olives was added to the national plant list, it has been included in plant reg­istries all over the world.

International cat­a­logs and list­ings of cul­ti­vars have now been updated with the new name,” agri­cul­tur­ist Giorgos Korinnis told Olive Oil Times. Just revok­ing the 2018 leg­is­la­tion would not turn things back to the pre­vi­ous sta­tus.”

Spilios Livanos, the newly-appointed min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture, said in a recent tele­meet­ing with the Greek inter­pro­fes­sional asso­ci­a­tion of table olives (Doepel) that he is con­sid­er­ing mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the cur­rent reg­u­la­tion. His goal is to strengthen the finan­cial posi­tions of Greek pro­duc­ers and sep­a­rate the Kalamon and Kalamata PDO names.

During the tele­meet­ing, a new brand name – Kalamata vari­ety’ – was pro­posed for Kalamon olives pro­duced out­side of Messenia, the Agrotypos agri­cul­tural news por­tal reported, a sug­ges­tion that Doepel rejected.

Among other vari­eties, Greece pro­duces more than 60,000 tons of Kalamon olives each year, with most of the pro­duc­tion exported to mar­kets around the world.

After sev­eral post­pone­ments, the appeal of the Messenian pro­duc­ers against the 2018 law is expected to be exam­ined by the Supreme Court in April.


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