A Dismal Harvest Concludes in Greece

With the country’s olive oil production almost halved compared to last year, record prices at origin have shaped a market searching for equilibrium.
Harvest on Crete
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Feb. 19, 2024 17:13 UTC

Final esti­mates for the weather-afflicted off-year’ har­vest in Greece sug­gest the country’s olive oil yield will fall below the ini­tially pro­jected 200,000 tons, reach­ing some­where between 150,000 and 170,000 tons of olive oil.

Production data released by the European Commission also indi­cate a poor olive oil crop of 175,000 tons, the low­est in the last six years and a stark con­trast from last year’s bumper har­vest of around 340,000 tons.

This has been one of the worst har­vests in the last 30 years,” said pro­ducer and miller Periklis Tsoukalas from the Ilia region in the Peloponnese. The ini­tial esti­mates of 17,000 tons of olive oil in the region should be revised down­ward to around 14,000 tons.”

Apart from the reduced quan­tity, only 70 per­cent of the freshly pressed olive oil clas­si­fies as extra vir­gin here due to prob­lems with the olive fruit fly,” he added. The pes­ti­cides used can­not fight the pest effec­tively.”

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

Producers in other regions were dis­tressed by the extremely low yields, too.

It’s not that we got less olive oil this year; we got none,” said Yiannis Souridis of the agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion of Potos-Theologos on the Aegean island of Thassos. Our asso­ci­a­tion pro­duced 1,100 tons of olive oil last year. This year, how­ever, we pro­duced only 50 tons. You can see the dif­fer­ence.”

Quality con­sul­tant and olive oil taster Nikos Koutsoukos attrib­uted the rea­sons behind the dis­crep­ancy between the ini­tially esti­mated and the finally fore­casted olive oil yield to the per­for­mance of the olive dru­pes and erratic weather dur­ing the har­vest.

At the time of milling, the olives did not fare as expected,” Koutsoukos told Olive Oil Times. Simply put, a kilo­gram of olives yielded less olive oil than pro­duc­ers expected.”

Another cause is the sud­den weather phe­nom­ena, such as hail­storms, which hit the olive trees in some pro­duc­ing areas, knock­ing olives to the ground and fur­ther adding to the prob­lem of reduced fruition this year,” he added.

Koutsoukos, a trained chemist with more than 25 years of expe­ri­ence in the Greek olive oil sec­tor, out­lined olive oil pro­duc­tion in the country’s main pro­duc­ing regions, high­light­ing a sharp decline in most of them.

Greece is expected to yield only around 150,000 tons of olive oil this crop year, almost half of last year’s quan­tity,” he said.

On the Peloponnese penin­sula, pro­duc­tion in the north­ern regions will fare close to just 20 to 30 per­cent of last year’s yield,” Koutsoukos added. Several olive oil mills in these areas did not open this sea­son because of the sig­nif­i­cantly lim­ited olive har­vest.”

The sit­u­a­tion is bet­ter In the south and south­west of the penin­sula, with the regions of Messenia, Ilia and Laconia likely to get 50 per­cent of last year’s quan­tity,” he con­tin­ued.

In 2022/23, more than 100,000 tons of olive oil were pro­duced in the Peloponnese, almost a third of the total national pro­duc­tion.

Koutsoukos also con­firmed the dra­matic decrease in pro­duc­tion in Crete, a hub of the Greek olive oil indus­try in good times.

I recently vis­ited the island and wit­nessed a steep drop of 60 to 70 per­cent in pro­duc­tion in most areas,” he said. In Chania, how­ever, pro­duc­tion fig­ures look slightly more opti­mistic, with the yield expected to amount to around 17,000 tons com­pared to 28,000 tons pro­duced last year.


We expect to get 60 per­cent of last year’s yield,” said Yiannis Mamidakis of the local depart­ment of agri­cul­ture. In other regions [in Crete], the drop in pro­duc­tion will be higher this sea­son.”

According to other indus­try experts on the island, pro­duc­tion will barely reach 30,000 tons com­pared to 130,000 tons pro­duced in 2022/23.

Koutsoukos also said that in north­ern Greece, where olive trees thrive mainly in coastal regions due to the harsh win­ters, olive oil pro­duc­tion is also very lim­ited and will likely not exceed 30 per­cent of last year’s yield.

We will have more pre­cise fig­ures for the whole coun­try when we get the offi­cial esti­mates from the regional agri­cul­tural depart­ments,” Koutsoukos added.

When it comes to qual­ity, he noted that it remained high in most parts of the coun­try despite con­cerns over the impact of pests and dis­eases.

The qual­ity of the season’s olive oil is high, although we were wor­ried at the begin­ning of the har­vest about prob­lems caused by the olive fruit fly and the gloeospo­rium,” he said.

However, the evo­lu­tion of the weather con­di­tions dur­ing the har­vest sea­son helped to mit­i­gate any seri­ous impact of pathogens on the olive oil Greece pro­duced this year,” Koutsoukos added. We only had some man­i­fes­ta­tions of the fly in Crete and spo­rad­i­cally in main­land Greece, which only caused minor prob­lems.”

Koutsoukos said that, despite the short­age of land work­ers, pro­duc­ers across the coun­try rushed to har­vest their olives due to the high price extra vir­gin olive oil can fetch.

In the long term, how­ever, such high prices can harm the prod­uct itself,” he said. High-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, for exam­ple, could become a lux­ury food prod­uct only for those with deep pock­ets.”

In my opin­ion, the whole world is head­ing towards a time when top-graded foods, such as extra vir­gin olive oil, will become very pricey,” he added.

Koutsoukos finally pointed out that the record prices at ori­gin in Greece, hav­ing climbed to even €10.00 per kilo­gram of extra vir­gin in Laconia, com­bined with the season’s mea­ger har­vest, have cre­ated a com­pli­cated conun­drum for the country’s olive oil sec­tor.

The sec­tor in Greece is at a cross­roads,” he said. The domes­tic mar­ket for olive oil is prac­ti­cally stag­nant at the moment, with pro­duc­ers hold­ing on to their lim­ited stocks in antic­i­pa­tion of prices ris­ing fur­ther, and it is almost impos­si­ble to pre­dict which way things will go.”


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