Olive Oil Drives Growth of Greek Agri-food Sector

Olive oil was the largest Greek agri-food export last year and the fourth-largest export overall, according to a new report. Its success has renewed the call from farmers for government backing.

Container port in Piraeus, Athens
Apr 17, 2019 7:25 AM EDT
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Container port in Piraeus, Athens

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Olive oil has always been a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in the Greek econ­omy, and almost every report, study and piece of research on the coun­try’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor makes a sep­a­rate ref­er­ence to it.

A new report released by the Exporters Association of Northern Greece (SEVE) reviewed and ana­lyzed the export data from 2018, show­ing that olive oil was the main dri­ving force behind the growth of Greek agri-food exports this year.

We have over­taken the limit of 30,000 tons of bot­tled olive oil. In two to three years we aim to go beyond 50,000 tons. The dynam­ics exist and we are pos­i­tive that we can achieve our goal.- Grigoris Antoniadis, head of SEVITEL

The total exports of agri­cul­tural and food prod­ucts rep­re­sent 16.2 per­cent of all the country’s exportable prod­ucts, and were val­ued at €5.43 bil­lion ($6.12 bil­lion) com­pared to €5.08 bil­lion ($5.73 bil­lion) the pre­vi­ous year.

At the same time, exports of vir­gin and extra vir­gin olive oil (both bot­tled and in bulk) peaked at €530 mil­lion ($598 mil­lion) com­pared to €413 mil­lion ($466 mil­lion) the pre­vi­ous sea­son, mainly due to the increased demand from Italy.

See Also: Olive Oil Commerce News

This trans­lates to an increased value of €117 mil­lion ($132 mil­lion) for olive oil in 2018, the high­est of any of the coun­try’s agri­cul­tural prod­ucts.

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In terms of worth and sig­nif­i­cance, olive oil is the fourth largest exported Greek prod­uct from all sec­tors, only after petro­leum, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts and alu­minum com­modi­ties.

Despite these large export fig­ures, the per­for­mance and the con­tri­bu­tion of olive oil to the Greek econ­omy over the years has also sparked com­plaints from grow­ers and pro­duc­ers, argu­ing that an impor­tant prod­uct such as this one should be gov­ern­ment-backed.

Such a wealth-cre­at­ing prod­uct that con­stantly sup­ports the econ­omy and the local com­mu­ni­ties gets no sup­port from the gov­ern­ment,” Priamos Ieronymakis, direc­tor of the Vine and Olive Oil Growers Group of Crete, said.

The state has never given any European de min­imis’ funds to the olive grow­ers and pro­duc­ers of Crete,” he added. They should give the funds for once. We are talk­ing about €200 mil­lion ($226 mil­lion) that will really sup­port the Cretan olive groves. Bottlers and exporters also fight to pro­mote our prod­ucts abroad. This is no easy task.”

Standard olive oil, on the other hand, remains robust in its own right, main­tain­ing a vol­ume of more than 30,000 tons of exports each sea­son dur­ing the recent years, com­pared to only 15,000 tons of exports in the past.

We have over­taken the limit of 30,000 tons of bot­tled olive oil,” Grigoris Antoniadis, head of SEVITEL, the asso­ci­a­tion of olive oil bot­tlers of Greece, said. In two to three years we aim to go beyond 50,000 tons. The dynam­ics exist and we are pos­i­tive that we can achieve our goal. After all, the [inter­na­tional] mar­ket and exports of olive oil con­tin­u­ously grow, while the inter­nal mar­ket shrinks.”

Even so, the increase in exports of olive oil and other food prod­ucts in 2018 was not reflected in the pen­e­tra­tion of new for­eign mar­kets, accord­ing to the Association of Greek Industries. Penetration into these mar­kets remained low, due to the fact that world exports are increas­ing at a higher rate than Greek exports, which are still being affected by the reper­cus­sions of the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis, and can not keep pace with com­peti­tors.

As far as the cur­rent 2018 – 19 sea­son is con­cerned, the lat­est esti­mates cal­cu­late the pro­duc­tion of olive oil at only 140,000 tons for the whole coun­try, a lot lower than the expected 200,000 tons.

The next har­vest sea­son, how­ever, seems promis­ing, as the agron­o­mist Kostas Lambrinos told Ypaithros news­pa­per.

The last sea­son was dif­fi­cult and the pro­duc­tion was severely cut,” he said. But now the olive trees give us a pos­i­tive feed­back. So, we can call it the year of the olive.”





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