Kalamata Dominates Greek Table Olive Market

Krinos Foods Canada Ltd. president Alexander Georgiadis on the position of Greek table olives in a changing global marketplace.

Krinos Foods Canada Ltd. president Alexander Georgiadis (Vasilis Nanis for ‘Elaias Karpos – El’ magazine, Agronews)
Aug. 7, 2018
By Nanis Vasilis - Agronews
Krinos Foods Canada Ltd. president Alexander Georgiadis (Vasilis Nanis for ‘Elaias Karpos – El’ magazine, Agronews)

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Alexander Georgiadis, pres­i­dent Krinos Foods Canada Ltd, spoke with Agronews on the cur­rent state of the Greek table olive mar­ket.

How are table olives doing on the global mar­ket and what is the posi­tion of the Kalamata olives in the inter­na­tional mar­ket?

Greek table olives mainly of the Kalamata vari­ety but increas­ingly also Halkidiki olives have grown steadily over the last years and have a very strong pres­ence in all mar­kets. Today Kalamata olives are the high­est sell­ing table olive vari­ety and have a dom­i­nant posi­tion in world mar­kets.

We need to develop a proper strat­egy so that the suc­cess of the Greek Kalamata olive can be sus­tained in a global mar­ket­place.- Alexander Georgiadis, Krinos Foods

Do you expect Greek Kalamata olives to main­tain their dom­i­nant posi­tion or might things change in the future?

There are sev­eral risks for the future of Kalamata table olives. Products going by the name of Kalamata type” are pro­duced in other coun­tries such as Egypt and Turkey, and with­out the right strat­egy for the prod­uct there is a risk that Greek table olives will have the same fate as Greek olive oil. Kalamata type” olives grown in Egypt or Turkey have a price advan­tage as they are pro­duced at much lower cost and can under­cut Greek Kalamata olives. That is why we need to develop a proper strat­egy, so that the suc­cess of the Greek Kalamata olive can be sus­tained in a global mar­ket­place.

What makes for qual­ity prod­ucts when it comes to table olives, is it the vari­ety of the fruit or the treat­ment that makes a suc­cess­ful prod­uct?

You have to start with a sound prod­uct from the very begin­ning. A bad prod­uct takes enor­mous effort to develop into a mediocre prod­uct, and will never become good. So, at the start of suc­cess is a very good fruit, which once nur­tured by the right treat­ment can be devel­oped into a high-qual­ity table olive. This is always the case, even in our line of work which is com­merce. With good qual­ity prod­ucts you can cap­ture cus­tomers atten­tion achieve good sales, secure fair lev­els of profit and offer good ser­vices to the clients. Beginning with the wrong type of prod­uct, on the other hand, is a crit­i­cal weak­ness that is very hard to over­come.

What share of the inter­na­tional mar­ket of table olives do Greek olives account for and what is the share of Greek olives in rela­tion to the total sales of your com­pany?

I am not aware of the num­bers regard­ing the posi­tion of Greek table olives in the inter­na­tional mar­ket. But I can tell you that our own com­pany – both the Canadian and US com­pa­nies added together must be the third or fourth largest buyer of Greek olives cur­rently. The quan­ti­ties of olives we import and dis­trib­ute are very impor­tant espe­cially for the US mar­ket and that includes not only Kalamata but also in Halkidiki olives, which have been gain­ing new mar­ket shares due to their qual­ity and size. They are par­tic­u­larly large in size in com­par­i­son with the Spanish olives, which are their main com­peti­tors.

You spoke before about Halkidiki olives, is it just the qual­ity and size that make them stand out or are there other advan­tages too?

Quality and size are a cru­cial advan­tage to Halkidiki olives but there is another fac­tor which comes into play and which is unfor­tu­nately not the case with Kalamata olives. Halkidiki olives ben­e­fit from a rel­a­tive price sta­bil­ity. Unfortunately, the price of Kalamata olives is not sta­ble. Moreover the price of Halkidiki is not only sta­ble but is also very com­pet­i­tive.

Kalamon on the other hand, while being an excel­lent prod­uct, is cer­tainly affected by big fluc­tu­a­tions in prices. This has been a chal­lenge for Kalamata olives. I sus­pect it has to do with the way the sys­tem works in Greece and the role of mid­dle­men who can con­trol prices by stock­ing quan­ti­ties of olives and rais­ing prices so that they can sell at a later stage and at a higher profit.

Do you think there could be improve­ments in the way that mar­kets for olives work?

There are prob­lems in the way that mar­kets oper­ate and prices are dis­torted due to prac­tices under­taken by mid­dle­men who often choose not to sell, wait­ing for prices to rise. As a result we end up los­ing sales oppor­tu­ni­ties. For exam­ple, if demand for pit­ted olives can­not be cov­ered by Greece, many over­seas cus­tomers will turn to Kalamon type” olives from Turkey despite the fact that their qual­ity is infe­rior. This has hap­pened repeat­edly in the past. I often get emails from Egyptian com­pa­nies, which offer me Egyptian olives at much lower prices. This is the real­ity and this has been made worse by the fact that there is no steady sup­ply so that the Greek exporters can pro­mote the Greek prod­uct effec­tively.

What are the Greek vari­eties of table olives with the greater poten­tial?

The vari­ety of Halkidiki and Kalamon, of course. However, I believe that with cer­tain improve­ments in the way the tree is cul­ti­vated at the pro­duc­tion stage, the Amfissis vari­ety also has great poten­tial.

What are the major tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments you antic­i­pate in the olive sec­tor, that can bring sig­nif­i­cant changes in the years to come?

There are major changes in terms of tech­nol­ogy, but besides these tech­ni­cal devel­op­ments, the most impor­tant change is, so to speak, the pos­i­tive part of the cri­sis of the Greek econ­omy. What we are see­ing is that many young and edu­cated Greeks have returned to rural areas to take up work in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, which can be a very prof­itable busi­ness if it is car­ried out prop­erly. Now we have farm­ers, who cul­ti­vate larger areas, in a much more pro­fes­sional and effec­tive way who can deliver bet­ter results.

Technically, impor­tant things have been achieved, such as the decod­ing of the DNA of the olive tree. We now can achieve a level of trace­abil­ity that allows us to know a greater level of detail about the ori­gin of each olive fruit, not only down to coun­try level but also trace down the region in which it has been pro­duced, with very high accu­racy. Technological devel­op­ments also allow the farmer to have much higher yields per acre.

About the Krinos Laboratory of the American Farm School of Thesaloniki, your com­pany sup­ported this lab­o­ra­tory from step one and today you are spon­sor­ing the 1st World Conference on Table Olives which took place at the American Farm School. What is the vision of your com­pany regard­ing the future of Greek table olives?

We are back­ing the Conference hop­ing that it can con­tribute to tack­ling the prob­lems of the Greek table olive sec­tor. Greece, being one of the most impor­tant exporters of edi­ble olives, has to be a pio­neer not only in terms of vol­umes of pro­duc­tion but also by set­ting the major trends in the indus­try. We would want Greece to be a pro­tag­o­nist of the future devel­op­ments in the field of edi­ble olives.

Olive Oil Times and the Greek pub­li­ca­tion Agronews are work­ing together to bring you agri­cul­tural news from Greece.


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