The Bid to Boost Olive Oil Quality on Crete

The island’s olive oil sector is looking to implement modern cultivating methods and production practices to improve quality and add value.
Nikos Koukouvotakis, Eleftheria Germanaki and Antonis Marakakis
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Aug. 2, 2022 16:05 UTC

On Crete, a hub of the Greek olive oil indus­try, grow­ers and pro­duc­ers are mov­ing to ensure qual­ity becomes an inte­gral part of olive cul­ti­va­tion and oil pro­duc­tion each year.

In boun­ti­ful har­vest sea­sons, Crete pro­duces approx­i­mately 90,000 tons of olive oil, 80 per­cent of which is graded as extra vir­gin.

If we want to go to the next level and have a bet­ter crop in terms of vol­ume and qual­ity, we need to imple­ment new rules.- Emmanouil Karpadakis, mar­ket­ing man­ager, Terra Creta

Producer prices hover around €3.50 per kilo­gram of extra vir­gin olive oil, sim­i­lar to the aver­age prices at ori­gin in most pro­duc­ing areas of Greece.

According to indus­try pro­fes­sion­als, Cretan olive grow­ers are start­ing to adopt a more com­pre­hen­sive approach to olive cul­ti­va­tion than in the past, with the goal of improv­ing qual­ity.

See Also:Award Winners in Greece Discuss a Feverish Season Before a Bountiful Harvest

The grow­ers now know why they do some­thing in the field and when is the right time to do it,” agron­o­mist Antonis Marakakis said. In tra­di­tional cul­ti­va­tion, they might just be ill-advised by the elders to do some­thing with­out really know­ing why.”

Cretan farm­ers have embraced the need to intro­duce new meth­ods into their farm­ing oper­a­tions to sus­tain their crops and improve the cal­iber of their olive oils.

We are focused on qual­ity, and we bet­ter man­age work in the field to achieve sus­tain­abil­ity,” farmer Nikos Koukouvotakis said. We cau­tiously use fer­til­iz­ers and prune the olive trees.”

We want to move on to mod­ern cul­ti­va­tion tech­niques with the guid­ance of expe­ri­enced and com­pe­tent experts of the sec­tor,” he added.

For Emmanouil Karpadakis, the mar­ket­ing man­ager at Terra Creta, a pro­ducer and bot­tler on the west­ern side of Crete near Chania, mak­ing head­way in the indus­try is linked to inno­va­tion.

If we want to go to the next level and have a bet­ter crop in terms of vol­ume and qual­ity, we need to imple­ment new rules,” Karpadakis said. The research that has been done on the qual­ity of olive oil and its ingre­di­ents such as the phe­no­lic com­pounds can pro­vide the guide­lines to change our approach to cul­ti­vat­ing [olive trees] and extract­ing [olive oil].”


Emmanouil Karpadakis

Olive oil pro­duc­ers from all the island’s regions have also applied for a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) sta­tus for the name Κρήτη/Kriti.

Should the European Commission reg­is­ter Cretan olive oil as a PGI, Cretan pro­duc­ers will effec­tively be able to mar­ket their olive oil under a stan­dard European Union qual­ity label with extra added value.

However, fac­tors that can pro­foundly affect the qual­ity of olive oil, such as adverse weather con­di­tions and the occur­rence of the olive fruit fly, remain a threat to all the olive oil-pro­duc­ing ter­ri­to­ries of Greece, includ­ing Crete.

In 2021, the unnat­u­rally warm and dry sum­mer that pre­ceded the har­vest­ing sea­son in Crete dried out the olive dru­pes in some areas of the island, impact­ing the aroma and fla­vor pro­file of the olive oils pro­duced in these areas.

On the other hand, inter­na­tional olive oil com­pe­ti­tions offer yet another way to ele­vate qual­ity, indus­try experts pointed out.

In recent years, pro­duc­ers from Crete have been increas­ingly par­tic­i­pat­ing and win­ning in com­pe­ti­tions around the world,” said Eleftheria Germanaki, an agron­o­mist and panel super­vi­sor of the olive oil organolep­tic lab­o­ra­tory of Crete who also serves as a mem­ber of the NYIOOC panel of judges.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Greece

Year after year, the pro­duc­ers are encour­aged to enter more com­pe­ti­tions world­wide which ulti­mately favors qual­ity,” she added. However, anx­i­ety about the future con­tin­ues to exist. Production costs are on the rise, and the short­ages in the labor force able to work in the fields are pro­gres­sively becom­ing worse.”

Karpadakis said that efforts to improve olive oil qual­ity also have a ben­e­fi­cial spillover effect on the envi­ron­ment.

“[Better olive oil qual­ity] also means bet­ter envi­ron­ment, because when you work with the farm­ers, you can guide them on how to treat the trees in a more envi­ron­men­tally-friendly way, how to reduce the input for the soil and you can give them incen­tives to achieve bet­ter qual­ity,” he said.

Karpadakis added that a joint endeavor to pro­mote olive oil qual­ity ben­e­fits the whole olive oil chain – farm­ers, pro­duc­ers, bot­tlers and dis­trib­u­tors – and ulti­mately ben­e­fits the con­sumers because they find qual­ity, authen­tic­ity and safety in the prod­uct they buy.”


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