Business

Turkey Expecting Near-Record Olive Oil Production

As the harvest is about to get underway, producers estimate total production will be between 200,000 and 250,000 tons. However, not all producers faired equally with the south having a better year than the north.

Sep. 23, 2019
By Daniel Dawson

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Turkish olive oil pro­duc­tion is pre­dicted to con­tinue fol­low­ing its upward trend in the 2019/20 crop year.

Producers and offi­cials in the Turkish olive oil sector are expect­ing to see the second high­est yield in the country’s his­tory, with this year’s crop expected to exceed 200,000 tons for only the third time.

In gen­eral the groves located in the south­ern parts of Turkey are more pro­duc­tive this year, whereas the North Aegean parts of Turkey suf­fered strong rain and high heat during the bloom­ing period, which led to seri­ous pro­duc­tion losses.- Bahar Alan, co-owner Nova Vera

“At the moment every­thing seems ok and I think we will have a yield of around 250,000 tons,” Levent Bilginogulları, the head of the Aegean Exporters Association, told Olive Oil Times.

More con­ser­v­a­tive esti­mates put this year’s yield at 200,000 tons or more.

See more: 2019 Olive Harvest News

“We like to talk big,” Chris Dologh, the gen­eral man­ager at Kristal Oil and board member of the International Olive Council, told Olive Oil Times. “But let’s wait and see. I would say [pro­duc­tion will be] at least 200,000 tons.”

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“The har­vest expec­ta­tions look good in the field at the moment. The rain helped the trees to cope with the heat­waves,” he added. “Fingers crossed, it should be a better year than the pre­vi­ous, qual­ity and quan­tity-wise.”

Last year, Turkey pro­duced 183,000 tons of olive oil, a dis­ap­point­ment for many after the record-break­ing har­vest of 2016/17 in which 263,000 tons of olive oil were pro­duced.

However, pro­duc­ers will not have to wait much longer to find out what this year’s pro­duc­tion num­bers will look like. In the North Aegean region, in which many of Turkey’s older and more tra­di­tion­ally farmed olive groves are located, the har­vest will begin in the coming days.

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“This is two weeks ear­lier than the pre­vi­ous year,” Bahar Alan, the co-owner of Nova Vera, told Olive Oil Times. “While the olive qual­ity is better com­pared to last year, the amount of olives varies from region to region.”

Alan expects to pro­duce about 100 tons from his olive groves. He said that while Turkey as a whole is expect­ing a pro­duc­tion increase, mainly fueled by more modern and inten­sive olive groves in the south­west of the coun­try, heavy spring rains fol­lowed by high heat-dam­aged many olive trees in his region.

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“In gen­eral the groves located in the south­ern parts of Turkey (Mugla, Antakya, Mersin) are more pro­duc­tive this year, whereas the North Aegean parts of Turkey (mainly Manisa) suf­fered strong rain and high heat during the bloom­ing period, which led to seri­ous pro­duc­tion losses,” he said.

However, the hot summer means that for sur­viv­ing olives to main­tain their qual­ity, more rain is now needed in the North Aegean region.

“In the areas where no irri­ga­tion is made, the best thing that can happen now is a ‘normal’ smooth rain, which rarely hap­pens any more due to cli­mate change,” Alan said. “One good thing about this season is that in gen­eral, the olive qual­ity is much better than last year. In case we do not face any extreme con­di­tions, this year we will con­tinue to pro­duce higher qual­ity olive oils.”

Ethem Bey, Turkey (OOT Archive)

Further south of Ayvalık-based Nova Vera, too much rain is not usu­ally the prob­lem for pro­duc­ers. Last year, high heats com­bined with drought-like con­di­tions sig­nif­i­cantly depleted the har­vest. However, cli­matic con­di­tions have been much better this year.

“We are antic­i­pat­ing this year’s har­vest to be sig­nif­i­cantly stronger than last year,” Merve Doran, the co-owner of Oleamea, told Olive Oil Times. “The con­di­tions have been good for olive cul­ti­va­tion, but we expe­ri­enced a hot summer along with ele­vated levels of humid­ity.”

Doran expects to pro­duce 60 to 70 tons of organic extra virgin olive oil this year. She added that one of the biggest chal­lenges facing olive oil pro­duc­ers in her part of south­west­ern Turkey is water short­ages.

“In order to max­i­mize our har­vest, rain in late September or early October would be ben­e­fi­cial,” she said. “Rain would cer­tainly help reju­ve­nate the trees to ensure an opti­mal har­vest.”

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Doran believes the whole Aegean region of west­ern Turkey will con­tinue to get hotter and drier, which means those who are able will need to begin invest­ing in irri­ga­tion sys­tems.

“This type of cli­mate pat­tern has seem­ingly become the new real­ity so we are attempt­ing to adapt to these con­di­tions,” Doran said. “In some of our lands, we can irri­gate but others are located in chal­leng­ing ter­rain, so we have lim­ited options regard­ing water acces­si­bil­ity.”

The fore­cast through­out the Aegean region remains hot and dry, with little to no rain pre­dicted for September and the major­ity of October. While pro­duc­ers and their olives may not get the respite that rain would bring, opti­mism remains about the upward tra­jec­tory of the sector.