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New Year, Same Problems for Greek Olive Oil Producers

Olive oil production varied from area to area, but uniformity of low prices was a constant across all of Greece.

Jan. 10, 2020
By Costas Vasilopoulos

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After a poor pre­vi­ous har­vest­ing sea­son that lead to a low yield some­where between 150,000 and 200,000 tons of olive oil, the cur­rent sea­son began in Sep­tem­ber with high hopes for many olive oil pro­duc­ers in Greece.

Five months on, Crete has already lost a large part of its usual pro­duc­tion and uncer­tainty pre­vails in the whole Greek olive oil sec­tor due to unex­pected set­backs in pro­duc­tion and flac­cid prices of the extra vir­gin olive oil.

While my olive oil is of excel­lent qual­ity, the sell­ing price is demean­ing. The money I earned this sea­son does not even cover the over­all cost of the har­vest. I can­not under­stand why prices are so low.- Niki­tas Andri­opou­los, olive oil pro­ducer in Pelo­pon­nese

Many pro­duc­ers eagerly antic­i­pated a strong yield but were dis­ap­pointed when they got only a frac­tion of their expected pro­duc­tion. Oth­ers were happy to make large vol­umes of qual­ity olive oil but were con­se­quently upset by the cur­rent sell­ing prices, rang­ing at €2.10 to €2.40 ($2.34 to $2.68) on aver­age for a kilo­gram of extra vir­gin olive oil.

Kon­stan­ti­nos Papadopou­los of the Papadopou­los Olive Oil Mill, a repeated win­ner at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion, told Olive Oil Times that the olive oil of the sea­son is of high qual­ity but mod­est quan­tity.

See more: 2019 Har­vest News

Har­vest­ing started in our area in early Octo­ber, when we processed the early-picked olives that give the agoure­lio, (early har­vest olives) and is expected to end in late Jan­u­ary or early Feb­ru­ary. For­tu­nately, we had no man­i­fes­ta­tion of the fruit fly in our area and we got extra vir­gin olive oil of high qual­ity, com­pared to pre­vi­ous sea­sons, although of a medium quan­tity,” Papadopou­los said.

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Papadopou­los was opti­mistic for the out­come of the sea­son, despite the low prices.

The global olive oil mar­ket defines the prices, which vary in our area between €2.20 ($2.44) and €2.40 ($2.67) per kilo­gram with a down­ward trend,” he said. We remain opti­mistic but with low expec­ta­tions since pro­duc­ers’ costs tend to exceed the rev­enue due to the low sell­ing prices of olive oil.”

On Euboea Island, the olive tree grower and mill owner Vasileios Kouk­ouzas saw his yield being dimin­ished by a mys­te­ri­ous dis­ease, as he told Olive Oil Times.

We grow and har­vest our own trees here, and we make only organic extra vir­gin olive oil from Koroneiki and Megar­i­tiki vari­eties,” Kouk­ouzas said. This sea­son the biggest prob­lem was a dis­ease that black­ened the olives within a week from its man­i­fes­ta­tion and made them fall on the ground.”

We did not have the time to look into it fur­ther due to the ongo­ing har­vest, and we would still be har­vest­ing in 2020 if it was­n’t for this pathogen,” he added. But despite the prob­lems, we man­aged to get a decent quan­tity of extra vir­gin of low acid­ity rang­ing at 0.3 to 0.4.”

At the nearby city of Ere­tria the same prob­lem occurred, the own­ers of the Amaryn­thos olive oil mill reported to Olive Oil Times.

We oper­ate a new mill that opened in 2017 when we had a pros­per­ous pro­duc­tion,” they said. Last sea­son we did not even bother to open due to the min­i­mal pro­duc­tion, and the cur­rent sea­son is also a bad one both in terms of qual­ity and quan­tity.”

We had seri­ous prob­lems with the fruit fly and with a pathogen, pos­si­bly the gloeospo­rium, that dropped the olive dru­pes from the trees,” they added. This was not only our prob­lem but from what we know most pro­duc­ing areas of Cen­tral Greece faced the same sit­u­a­tion.”

They also said that the olives they man­aged to process gave extra vir­gin olive oil with an acid­ity level of 0.5, a bit lower than the qual­ity they were after.

Leonidas Chras from Lokrida in Fthi­otida region, one of the few Greek grow­ers to cul­ti­vate the Arbe­quina vari­ety, was unaf­fected by the pathogen and had a strong har­vest but with low prices.

We had no prob­lems with the fruit fly, and only around Christ­mas we noticed some minor infes­ta­tions,” Chras told Olive Oil Times. All in all, we had a good yield with extra vir­gin olive oil of low acid­ity. The mar­ket price of one kilo­gram of extra vir­gin olive oil is cur­rently at €2.40 ($2.67) in our area, and we only sell at a higher price of €3.20 ($3.57) to some pri­vate buy­ers.”

Other grow­ers and pro­duc­ers in sev­eral other olive oil mak­ing ter­ri­to­ries of Greece expressed their uncer­tainty about the pre­vail­ing con­di­tions in the olive oil sec­tor of the coun­try.

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Niki­tas Andri­opou­los, a pro­ducer based in west­ern Pelo­pon­nese, com­plained that though he made top-qual­ity olive oil this year, the income from his olive busi­ness is not enough to cover the expenses.

While my olive oil is of excel­lent qual­ity, the sell­ing price is demean­ing,” Andri­opou­los said. A kilo of extra vir­gin costs €2.20 ($2.46) and the money I earned this sea­son does not even cover the over­all cost of the har­vest includ­ing the pay­ments to the work­ers. I can­not under­stand why prices are so low.”

In Mag­nisia, at the foot of Mount Pelion, the local grow­ers and pro­duc­ers protested that on top of the low prices of the extra vir­gin olive oil (reach­ing as low as €2.00 – $2.23 – per kilo­gram), the fruit fly and the gloeospo­rium caused great dam­age to the olive oil pro­duc­tion of the area and the edi­ble olives as well.

They have also asked for com­pen­sa­tion from the state, and in advance to apply pri­vate stor­age of the olive oil to strengthen its mar­ket price.

Even in Lesvos, where the local olive oil indus­try was eager to recover from the cat­a­strophic pre­vi­ous sea­son aim­ing at a strong yield of olive oil with a near-record over­all pro­duc­tion of more than 17,000 tons, the high tem­per­a­tures and the increased lev­els of humid­ity in Octo­ber and Novem­ber favored the devel­op­ment of pathogens that dete­ri­o­rated the expected qual­ity.

In con­junc­tion with the pre­vail­ing low prices of approx­i­mately €2.20 ($2.44) per kilo­gram of extra vir­gin olive oil, the pro­duc­ers have asked for com­pen­sa­tion and mea­sures from the state to sup­port the olive oil sec­tor of the island.





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