Producers in Greece Adapt to Challenging Harvest

Greek producers have shown resourcefulness in dealing with the exceptional challenges of the 2020 harvest, supported by their knowledge of the industry and their clients.
Stavros Kallas
Dec. 22, 2020
Costas Vasilopoulos

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Even as they con­front the long-run­ning reper­cus­sions of the Covid-19 pan­demic, adverse weather con­di­tions and low olive oil prices, Greek pro­duc­ers are deter­mined to have a suc­cess­ful har­vest.

On the island of Kefalonia, on the west­ern edge of the Hellenic Arc in the Ionian Sea, the har­vest was demand­ing but reward­ing for the local pro­duc­ers at Liocharis.

We are cer­tain that this dif­fi­culty will only make the world of qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil stronger and more deter­mined than ever.- Evgenia Andriopoulou, Makaria Terra

The major prob­lem we faced this sea­son was the arid cli­mate in November, requir­ing spe­cial tech­niques in the olive mill to reduce the pos­si­bil­ity of emul­sions,” Dionysios Garbis, the com­pa­ny’s pro­duc­tion man­ager, told Olive Oil Times. Luckily, the qual­ity of the pro­duced olive oil is excep­tional although the quan­tity has been reduced com­pared to last year.”

See Also:2020 Harvest Updates

The olive pick­ing sea­son started with early-har­vested olives in the first week of October,” Garbis said. The olives of the Koroneiki vari­ety were very green and gave a low yield dur­ing that time. Currently, olive pick­ing is at its peak with local olive vari­eties such as Ithaca, Manaki and other vari­eties.”


Liocharis Kefalonia Olive Mill

Business clo­sures reduced Liocharis’ sales to local restau­rant and hotel facil­i­ties. However, these losses were par­tially off­set by direct sales to con­sumers, which were buoyed by a Silver award at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition last May.

The Covid-related lock­downs had a strong impact on Horeca (hotels, restau­rants and cafes) activ­ity and con­se­quently extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion [via this chan­nel] has been sig­nif­i­cantly reduced on the island and all over the world,” Garbis said.


On the other hand, our last NYIOOC award resulted in an increase of our retail sales, partly bal­anc­ing the loss of sales from tourist activ­ity,” he added.

In Messinia, on the south­west­ern side of the Peloponnese penin­sula, Evgenia Andriopoulou of Makaria Terra stressed the unusual nature of the cur­rent har­vest­ing sea­son.

We indeed live in very chal­leng­ing times,” Andriopoulou told Olive Oil Times. However, we are cer­tain that this dif­fi­culty will only make the world of qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil stronger and more deter­mined than ever.”


Makaria Terra

Efforts through­out the sea­son have paid off for Makaria Terra, despite the unique con­di­tions shaped by the pan­demic.

We have already com­pleted the har­vest,” Andriopoulou said. There have been a few chal­lenges, most notably, the absence of work­ers due to Covid-19 restric­tions. We have man­aged to over­come this prob­lem, since we har­vested at a time when most of the other olive oil pro­duc­ers thought that it was too early to har­vest their crop.”

Other than that, we may say that we have pro­duced a qual­ity olive oil this year as well and hope that we will be able to be awarded with our fourth Gold award at the 2021 NYIOOC,” she added.

Andriopoulou also acknowl­edged the cru­cial con­tri­bu­tion of the com­pa­ny’s clients in being suc­cess­ful in the olive oil indus­try.

These are not easy times, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” she said. We must say though, in order to be fair, that it is of utmost impor­tance that we have a his­tory behind us and an audi­ence and reg­u­lar clien­tele that sup­ports our qual­ity prod­uct.”

Otherwise, it is really hard for new­com­ers to enter into the game, as the con­se­quences of Covid-19 do not leave much space for new­com­ers to nav­i­gate,” Andriopoulou added.

In Crete, how­ever, which sits almost in the mid­dle of the Hellenic Arc, more tra­di­tional prob­lems pre­vail.

In some areas, the local author­i­ties had urged the pro­duc­ers to har­vest early to avoid cumu­la­tive prob­lems from the fruit fly. However, at the time of har­vest the olive fruits were not ripe enough for a sub­stan­tial yield and the quan­tity of olive oil pro­duced at that time was sig­nif­i­cantly lower than expected.

The yield, espe­cially in east­ern Crete, is still very low, par­tic­u­larly in areas with high fruition, reach­ing even nine or 10 to one [nine kilo­grams of olives needed for one kilo­gram of olive oil], a per­cent­age that does not yet allow [a suc­cess­ful] har­vest,” agri­cul­tur­ist Nikos Michelakis said.

It is an indi­ca­tion of what would have hap­pened if the pro­duc­ers had fol­lowed the rec­om­men­da­tions of har­vest­ing even ear­lier, in late September or early October,” he added.

See Also:Best Olive Oils From Greece

Meanwhile in Ierapetra, on the east­ern side of Crete, the mem­bers of the Eptastiktos social coop­er­a­tive worked together with local grow­ers to har­vest olives from cen­te­nar­ian olive trees to pro­duce high-qual­ity and highly-priced olive oil.


Eptastiktos Social Cooperative

The pro­duced olive oil has an acid­ity of 0.4 and polyphe­nols exceed­ing 500 mil­ligrams per kilo­gram,” Pavlos Daskalakis, the program’s coor­di­na­tor, said. The pro­duc­ers’ price was set at €4.00 for a kilo­gram of olive oil.”

The oil is bot­tled in 100 mil­li­liter and 500 mil­liter con­tain­ers to be sold online,” he added. Our aim is to make extra vir­gin olive oil of top qual­ity and cul­tural value, since it is made from some of the old­est trees in the world.”

Centenarian olive trees are much more pro­duc­tive and bet­ter adapted to the island’s weather con­di­tions,” Daskalakis con­tin­ued. Many ancient olive trees exist all over Crete, with some of them dat­ing back to the Minoan times. In the Lasithi region alone there are hun­dreds of cen­te­nar­ian olive trees, with the old­est being 3,000 years old.”

Unfortunately, they do not receive any offi­cial pro­tec­tion (apart from the love of their own­ers),” he con­cluded. Similar ini­tia­tives of olive oil pro­duc­tion from old trees exist also in Spain, but munic­i­pal­i­ties and regions work together there.”

On the east­ern edge of the Hellenic Arc lies Rhodes – the so-called Island of the Knights’ due to its rich medieval his­tory – where the Kallas fam­ily are wrap­ping up their oper­a­tions for the sea­son.

December gen­er­ally marks the end of the olive har­vest­ing and pro­duc­ing period,” Stavros Kallas told Olive Oil Times.“This year, December was par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult because we are cur­rently expe­ri­enc­ing a sec­ond wave of the pan­demic.

Thankfully, the weather con­di­tions were in favor of the olive trees, which resulted in extra vir­gin olive oil of really high qual­ity,” he added. There were some prob­lems, espe­cially dur­ing the fruition period when the tem­per­a­tures were very high, but those were minor, and Rhodes pro­duced excep­tional oil.”


Stavros Kallas

For Kallas, the first pro­ducer from Rhodes to earn an award in the NYIOOC, the olive tree is an exam­ple of strength and endurance in dif­fi­cult times like the pan­demic era.

The award we received in New York was a big honor for the Kallas fam­ily, since this was the first time a Rhodian olive oil was awarded,” Kallas said. We sup­port the local prod­ucts and we want them to thrive.”

Το every­one that is still har­vest­ing this pre­cious ingre­di­ent: we wish you good luck,” he added. I hope, just like the olive tree always stands tall, human­ity can over­come this prob­lem and rise again.”

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