Farmers in Greece Witness the Impacts of Climate Change After Historically Low Harvest

Farmers and millers throughout Greece have reported that climate change is making it increasingly difficult to produce award-winning extra virgin olive oil.
(Photo: Dr. Kavvadia)
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Jun. 10, 2024 22:06 UTC

The Greek olive oil sec­tor was tested to the limit this year, with the coun­try yield­ing record-low pro­duc­tion of less than 150,000 tons of olive oil due to adverse weather and the olive trees enter­ing an off-year’ in most of the country’s pro­duc­ing regions.

Some of the 56 Greek pro­duc­ers awarded at this year’s World Competition still feel the after­shocks of the chal­leng­ing har­vest.

While we may not have direct con­trol over cli­mate change and its asso­ci­ated warmer con­di­tions, we do have the abil­ity to make changes within our olive groves to mit­i­gate some of its effects.- Diamantis Pierrakos, Laconiko

This year, we real­ized that the cul­ti­va­tion of olive trees is no longer viable,” said Apostolos Porsanidis, the owner of Dr. Kavva­dia, a return­ing entrant from the Ionian island of Corfu. We have to evolve with the chal­lenges cli­mate change brings.”

The pro­ducer earned a Silver Award at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition for a medium mono­va­ri­etal from the local Lianelia vari­ety.

See Also:The best extra vir­gin olive oils from Greece

The fruit­set was min­i­mal, and the olive fruit fly took a heavy toll on the olives,” Porsanidis said. We worked hard to pro­duce our olive oil and were delighted to receive a Silver Award this year. The NYIOOC has always been the ideal place to intro­duce our olive oil to more con­sumers from around the world.”

Porsanidis’ words were echoed by Vlasios Nisiotis of Rafteli Protouli from Lesbos, who said that the Gold Award the com­pany won at the 2024 NYIOOC guar­an­tees the favor­able recep­tion of the company’s brand abroad.

By sub­mit­ting our Aegean Gold PGI Lesvos to the com­pe­ti­tion, we wanted to con­firm that we are con­tin­u­ing on the path of qual­ity that we have been fol­low­ing for years,” Nisiotis said.

He noted, how­ever, that cli­mate change has left its mark on the dis­mal har­vest Lesbos expe­ri­enced this crop year.

The 2023/24 har­vest was one of the worst in the last 20 years,” he said. Olive cul­ti­va­tion has been hit harder than ever with unprece­dented low pro­duc­tion vol­umes due to cli­mate change.”

The low olive oil yields and the water short­ages we reg­u­larly face on the island may mean that the time has come for us peo­ple to deal with all the dam­age we have caused to the planet for years,” Nisiotis added.

He noted that the 2024/25 har­vest looks promis­ing for now. We hope for an abun­dant har­vest next year. All the signs are encour­ag­ing,” Nisiotis said. However, there is still a marathon to run until the har­vest begins, and any­thing can hap­pen.”


Nisiotis attributed the historically low harvest on the island of Lesbos to the impacts of climate change. (Photo: Rafteli Protouli)

Agriston, another award-win­ning pro­ducer halfway between Thessaloniki and Kavala, rep­re­sented north­ern Greek pro­duc­ers at the World Competition, earn­ing a Silver Award for a medium mono­va­ri­etal from Chalkidiki olives.

Owner Vangelis Chrysafoudis believes pack­aged olive oil is the way for­ward for Greek pro­duc­ers.

When you sell in bulk, you are at the mercy of the Italians,” he said. If you sell it pack­aged, at least you con­trol your game.”

The com­pany exports its branded olive oil to numer­ous coun­tries, includ­ing Sweden, France, Canada, the United States and Germany. However, last year’s mea­ger yield made Chrysafoudis recon­sider his strat­egy.

Two years ago, we pro­duced 500 tons of oil, and last year, 70,” he said. The reduced pro­duc­tion shat­tered my dreams. I could have opened many more doors if I had more olive oil. Still, I won’t return to sell­ing at €1.50 per kilo­gram. I’ll man­age.”


Athanasios Molasiotis, a pro­fes­sor of agron­omy at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, said that higher-than-usual tem­per­a­tures, which are attrib­uted to cli­mate change, are affect­ing the Greek olive oil sec­tor in mul­ti­ple ways.

He added that the high tem­per­a­tures mainly occur in the sum­mer, exhaust­ing the olive trees.

Another prob­lem is what cen­tral and espe­cially north­ern Greece is expe­ri­enc­ing: the high win­ter tem­per­a­tures,” Molasiotis said. Olive trees must receive fairly low tem­per­a­tures in the win­ter for strong flow­er­ing and fruit­ing.”

However, [the reduced fruit­ing] of the olive trees should not intim­i­date us,” he added. Olive trees have on’ and off years,’ show­ing par­tial fruit­ing or even fruit­less­ness after a year of intense fruit­ing. On the one hand, there are the cli­matic fac­tors that affect the fruit­ing, and on the other hand, the olive trees by nature do not bear fruit con­sis­tently.”

Diamantis Pierrakos of Laconiko, an award-win­ning pro­ducer from the Peloponnese penin­sula, said that a tar­geted approach is required to coun­ter­bal­ance the impact of cli­mate change on olive groves and trees.

While we may not have direct con­trol over cli­mate change and its asso­ci­ated warmer con­di­tions, we do have the abil­ity to make changes within our olive groves to mit­i­gate some of its effects,” he said.

Our olive groves, sit­u­ated along the south­ern coast of the Peloponnese, face chal­lenges such as poor soil nutri­ents and low water reten­tion due to sandy soil,” Piuerrakos added.

Our strat­egy has focused on improv­ing and for­ti­fy­ing the soil con­di­tions to enhance the resilience of our olive trees against the chang­ing cli­mate,” he explained. By strength­en­ing our soil and trees, we have observed sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments and increased resilience in our groves.”

Laconiko earned a quar­tet of awards (two Gold and two Silver) at this year’s World Competition, bring­ing its total to 21 awards and estab­lish­ing its posi­tion as the most-awarded Greek pro­ducer in the Olive Oil Times World Ranking.

We carry this year’s awards with pride,” Pierrakos said. “ Since it was our most chal­leng­ing har­vest to date, with a short­age of work­ers and con­stant delays dur­ing our har­vest, the fact that we man­aged to be rec­og­nized once again speaks vol­umes about our com­mit­ment to qual­ity.”


Related Articles