`High-Priced Olive Oil Fuels Thefts in Greece, Farmers Respond - Olive Oil Times

High-Priced Olive Oil Fuels Thefts in Greece, Farmers Respond

By Costas Vasilopoulos
Oct. 26, 2023 14:10 UTC

While the olive har­vest has already begun in some parts of Greece, pre­dic­tions of a reduced yield of 215,000 tons and record-high prices have made olive oil a pre­cious com­mod­ity for pro­duc­ers and con­sumers alike.

Prices at ori­gin have climbed to between €8.50 and €9.20 per kilo­gram of low-acid­ity extra vir­gin olive oil. In super­mar­kets and other retail­ers, con­sumers face prices rang­ing from €9.00 to €16.00 for a liter of pack­aged extra vir­gin olive oil.

Incidents of olive oil theft have always occurred in Greece, and every­where olive oil is pro­duced. However, thefts are more com­mon now that the oil is much more expen­sive.- Evangelos Panagakos, olive oil pro­ducer

The season’s extremes have also sparked a spate of olive oil thefts and illicit prac­tices across the coun­try this autumn.

At the Polygyros agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion in Chalkidiki, a whop­ping 37 tons of olive oil from last season’s har­vest were report­edly stolen from the association’s premises, with some esti­mates putting the amount of the miss­ing olive oil at more than 50 tons.

See Also:Olive Oil Thefts Rising in Mills and Supermarkets Across Spain

Local pro­duc­ers who are asso­ci­a­tion mem­bers filed an offi­cial com­plaint against the association’s admin­is­tra­tors, accus­ing them of embez­zling the stored olive oil and claim­ing that the theft was an inside job.

We’re talk­ing about very big busi­ness,” said Manolis Yiannoulis, head of EDOE, the national inter­pro­fes­sional olive oil asso­ci­a­tion.

Thirty-seven tons in today’s mar­ket would be worth more than €300,000,” he added. When olive oil prices in the last year have increased by 200 per­cent because of low yields, there is a lot of money to be made.”

In the vil­lage of Geraki near Heraklion in Crete, thieves tar­geted an elderly man’s house, steal­ing 200 kilo­grams of olive oil.

In Messinia in south­ern Peloponnese, intrud­ers raided an olive oil mill in Analipsi, mak­ing off with around 100 kilo­grams of olive oil and equip­ment and caus­ing dam­age to the mill facil­i­ties.

In the north­ern Greek region of Pella, the police arrested the owner of a local min­i­mar­ket for sell­ing olive oil of dubi­ous ori­gin and qual­ity with­out hav­ing any legal pur­chase doc­u­ments.

Around 500 liters of olive oil labeled extra vir­gin were found in the min­i­mar­ket and con­fis­cated by the author­i­ties.

Incidents of olive oil theft have always occurred in Greece and every­where olive oil is pro­duced,” Evangelos Panagakos, a miller based in Skala in the Lakonia region, told Olive Oil Times.

However, thefts are more com­mon now that the oil is much more expen­sive,“ he added. Local grow­ers and pro­duc­ers have not yet resorted to any mea­sures, but with prices so high, there is wide­spread con­cern among them about the season’s olive oil and how to safe­guard it bet­ter.”

Panagakos also noted that olive oil pro­duc­tion in Skala and the neigh­bor­ing ter­ri­to­ries is expected to align with the coun­try’s gen­eral trend of reduced pro­duc­tion and far lower than last year.

We expect a 25 to 30 per­cent reduc­tion in our area and most of south­ern Lakonia this sea­son,” he said. This is mostly due to the fruit set­ting of the olive trees being incom­plete because of the mild win­ter.”


A drop in olive oil pro­duc­tion is also expected for the Lakonia region, from 25,000 tons in the 2022/23 crop year to less than 20,000 tons in the cur­rent one.

On Crete, local pro­duc­ers are deter­mined to pro­tect this year’s lim­ited but valu­able olive har­vest.

See Also:Storms in Greece Flood Olive Groves, Damage Trees

There may be cases where the olives are har­vested by peo­ple who are not their right­ful owner,” said Vaggelis Protegerakis, the head of the asso­ci­a­tion of Heraklion olive oil pro­duc­ers.

This has hap­pened again in pre­vi­ous years when prices were not as high as they are now,” he added. We are con­sid­er­ing using GPS track­ers that resem­ble olive fruits to track any stolen olives, sim­i­lar to those our Spaniard coun­ter­parts have already put in use in their groves.”


Protogerakis said the region’s pro­duc­ers are con­sid­er­ing hir­ing secu­rity agen­cies and patrolling the olive groves at night to pre­vent any theft of olives.

Olive oil pro­duc­tion in Crete is expected to plum­met this year com­pared to the 130,000 tons pro­duced in 2022/23, reach­ing an esti­mated 30,000 to 35,000 tons for the whole island.

Apart from the thefts and the expected pro­duc­tion decline, the country’s olive oil sec­tor faces a steep drop in domes­tic con­sump­tion. In the past year, con­sumer demand for olive oil fell by 30 per­cent in the coun­try.

Our biggest fear is the decline [in con­sump­tion] we have seen in Greece,” said Yiorgos Economou, the gen­eral direc­tor of Sevitel, the asso­ci­a­tion of Greek olive oil bot­tlers.

People are opt­ing for seed oils because they are one-third of the price,” he added. Then there is the hes­i­ta­tion of coun­tries like the United Kingdom, which are now think­ing twice about import­ing [our] olive oils because of soar­ing costs.”

However, some indus­try experts have iden­ti­fied an asym­me­try in the mar­ket, express­ing con­cern that the ever-increas­ing prices of olive oil could even­tu­ally back­fire.

The country’s pro­duc­ers who today applaud [the high prices] should face things more real­is­ti­cally and try to bal­ance the sit­u­a­tion,” said Myron Hiletzakis, the deputy head of the agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion of Heraklion.

Producers sold last year’s olive oil crop at €4.50 to €5 per kilo­gram, and these oils are now going for €13.50 a liter on the shelves,” Hiletzakis added.

With pro­duc­ers’ prices at €8.50 per kilo­gram, ris­ing to €10 with the added tax, con­sumer prices will even­tu­ally rise even fur­ther, per­haps to €20 or €25 for one liter,” he con­cluded. All these could push us out of the mar­ket.”


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