Triumphant team Montenegro. Photo courtesy of Domagoj Blazevic.

A team of Montenegrin olive pickers has won the third unofficial World Olive Picking Championship on the Croatian island of Brač.

Croatia, which won the first olive picking competition in 2017 and defended their title in 2018, dropped to sixth place in the third edition of the annual event.

This year, the Croatians fielded an eclectic team composed of the mayor of Split, an Olympic gold medalist, a television presenter and a blogger. However, this team of national celebrities was no match for the Montenegrin experts, who picked 77.6 kilograms (171 lbs) of olives.

At this event, we are promoting olive oil through tourism, and tourism through agriculture.- Ljerka Vlahović, director of Postira Agro-Cooperative

The Montenegrins were followed in a somewhat distant second by the team from neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, who picked 57.6 kilograms (127 lbs). A team from South Africa rounded out the top three, harvesting 56 kilograms (123.5 lbs). The Croatians only managed to pick 50.4 kilograms (111 lbs).

Teams from twelve countries travelled to Croatia for the competition this year, which welcomed competitors from Poland, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, England, Slovenia, South Africa, the United States, Slovakia, France and Belgium. Representatives from Tunisia did not arrive due to visa problems.

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The event was organized by the Postira Tourist Board and the Postira Agricultural Cooperative to promote olive growing and olive oil production in Croatia.

“Weather conditions were great! Sunny and warm, we were all wearing short sleeves,” Ivana Jelinčić, director of Postira Tourist Board told Olive Oil Times. She described the event as a great success and said that both the participants and the organizers had thoroughly enjoyed the competition.

The olive picking contest, which followed the peak tourist season on the island, had a festive atmosphere with workshops, wine tastings and entertainment. The event also provided an opportunity for people from olive and non-olive producing countries around the world to network, explore the island and showcase their own olive products.

The competition has categories for both traditional and modern olive picking and the rules dictate that each team has four members made up of two males and two females.

The competition took place in the picturesque 16th-century port village of Postira, which boasts a history of olive cultivation going back centuries. After the competition participants were treated to an excursion of the island and attended an awards ceremony dinner.

Ljerka Vlahović, director of Postira Agro-Cooperative told Olive Oil Times that he hopes the competition will motivate people to continue the work of their ancestors. Although Brač is home to around one million olive trees, only half of them are currently cultivated, Vlahović said.

He described the championship as “a great opportunity to show to the world our tradition, our high-quality olive oil, our island, our village, our culture, and all this through part of the year when local people are doing the same – picking olives.”

Vlahović who oversaw the event and kept a watchful eye on the olive weighing added, “at this event we are promoting olive oil through tourism, and tourism through agriculture.”

“After the event the processing of olive oil will be made in our Agro-cooperative,” he added.

Postira Agro-cooperative was established in 1945 as a place for the island’s olive growers to produce olive oil and has its own olive groves and citrus trees.

According to Vlahović, 2012 was the cooperative’s best year to date with almost two million kilograms (4.4 million lbs) of olives processed.

“Soon we will get a certificate that allows us to export our olive oil all over the world, under the name ‘Brač olive oil’,” he added.

Croatia has gained world-wide recognition for its high-quality olive oil. Most recently, Croatian producers picked up the fourth most awards at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.


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