In Montenegro, Producers Join in World Competition Bid

Working together, Montenegrin producers hope to replicate neighboring Croatia’s success at the World Olive Oil Competition.

A sign in Budva, Montenegro points to an ancient olive tree thought to be among the oldest in Europe.
By Daniel Dawson
Feb. 21, 2022 08:43 UTC
A sign in Budva, Montenegro points to an ancient olive tree thought to be among the oldest in Europe.

Producers in Montenegro are work­ing together to send the country’s high­est-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils to the 2022 NYIOOC Word Olive Oil Competition.

The Bar Olive Association has spear­headed the effort by help­ing pro­duc­ers con­duct chem­i­cal and organolep­tic analy­ses of the poten­tial entrants and gather the fees to enter the com­pe­ti­tion.

We work on improv­ing qual­ity because, as small pro­duc­ers, we can’t have large-scale pro­duc­tion, and we can’t com­pete with coun­tries that do. But we can com­pete with their qual­ity.- Ćazim Alković, pres­i­dent, Bar Olive Association

According to NYIOOC data, the only time a Montenegrin has entered the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion was in 2014, but the sole pro­ducer failed to win an award.

Data from the International Olive Council show that the small moun­tain­ous repub­lic in the south­west Balkans pro­duces about 500 tons of olive oil per year.

See Also:Officials Hope Winning Results Spur Olive Production in Herzegovina

Ćazim Alković, the pres­i­dent of the Bar Olive Growers Association, told a local tele­vi­sion pro­gram, TV Budva, that he orig­i­nally planned to send Montenegrin oils to New York in 2021 but could not due to the Covid-19 pan­demic.

We have been plan­ning this some time now as our neigh­bors from Croatia are doing it suc­cess­fully,” he said.

Alković believes that Montenegrin olive oils are just as good as their Croatian coun­ter­parts. In his opin­ion, the two are sim­ply sep­a­rated by the high level of sup­port and coor­di­na­tion that Croatian pro­duc­ers’ groups pro­vide to olive grow­ers to enter the com­pe­ti­tion.

So our orga­ni­za­tion made an effort to get olive grow­ers from Bar and all other Montenegrin olive grow­ers inter­ested,” he said. We decided to inter­est the may­ors of the munic­i­pal­i­ties because pay­ing the $400 reg­is­tra­tion fee is a prob­lem for olive grow­ers. Even though they have top-qual­ity oil, they can’t afford to pay it.”

Alković fur­ther pointed out the dif­fer­ence in the num­ber of Croatian entrants and win­ners after Dalmatian pro­duc­ers coop­er­ated in send­ing their oils to New York last year.

From 2018 to 2020, Croatians earned between 40 and 50 awards from 45 to 60 entries at the NYIOOC. However, in 2021, they earned a record-high 87 awards from 105 entries, the fourth-high­est tally from any coun­try at the com­pe­ti­tion. Of the 87 awards, 53 came from Dalmatia.

That’s a big suc­cess for such a small coun­try,” Alković said. So we hope to take that path to at least get a lit­tle closer.”

Alković is con­fi­dent that Montenegrin pro­duc­ers can suc­ceed at this year’s com­pe­ti­tion.

Despite hav­ing a har­vest that he described as noth­ing spe­cial,” the hot and dry sum­mer pre­vented olive fruit fly infes­ta­tions in many of the groves. The dry heat also pro­vided the per­fect amount of stress for the trees. Alković believes that qual­ity is very high as a result of both fac­tors.

He is also hope­ful that an extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced from Montenegro’s Old Olive Tree, which some claim is the old­est in Europe at 2,245 years old, will be among the win­ners.

Alković argued that this type of recog­ni­tion would val­i­date the country’s ancient olive oil tra­di­tion and spur the devel­op­ment of oleo­tourism in Montenegro.

According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, tourism accounts for one-fifth of the country’s annual GDP, cre­at­ing slightly more than €970 mil­lion of value.

This is not only about olive oil, but it’s also a very impor­tant tourism topic because when we have oils that win medals at world com­pe­ti­tions, that will cer­tainly con­tribute to our tourism,” he said. It will be only a plus.”

While estab­lish­ing more oleo­tourism des­ti­na­tions in Montenegro will help local pro­duc­ers diver­sify their income, Alković said the first step is pro­mot­ing high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion.

We work on improv­ing qual­ity because, as small pro­duc­ers, we can’t have large-scale pro­duc­tion, and we can’t com­pete with coun­tries that do,” he said. But we can com­pete with their qual­ity, and we expect that medals from the com­pe­ti­tion will help us improve qual­ity.”

Alković believes that Montenegro needs a national olive grow­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion instead of var­i­ous local ones to achieve this goal.

We need to cre­ate a national asso­ci­a­tion to con­nect all asso­ci­a­tions in one,” he said. It would be a good strat­egy for olive grow­ing devel­op­ment in Montenegro.”

We work in the field indi­vid­u­ally, but we must have a strat­egy and work together,” Alković con­cluded. To join forces for suc­cess.”

Nedjeljko Jusup con­tributed to this report.


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