Harvest Unfolds with Mixed Results in Greece

A modest yield is expected in most of the producing regions of the country, with many producers pinning their hopes on quality.

Dec 16, 2021 9:30 AM EST
By Costas Vasilopoulos

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Olives har­vest­ing is in full swing in Greece, with the out­come so far ver­i­fy­ing the ini­tial pro­jec­tions of a reduced national olive oil yield, slightly exceed­ing 200,000 tons.

As the major­ity of pro­duc­ing ter­ri­to­ries have been shaken by the erratic weather of last spring and sum­mer, the infor­ma­tion pro­vided by pro­duc­ers and mill own­ers shows that the har­vest has become depen­dent on the weather con­di­tions as never before in recent years.

The main rea­son for the reduced crop is the reduced blos­som­ing of the olive trees which were impacted by the unnat­u­rally warm weather of last spring.- Dimitris Soulakis, Lesbos mill owner

On Crete, where a mid-range pro­duc­tion of around 70,000 tons is expected, pro­duc­ers have come to terms with the fact that the ele­ments have the upper hand this sea­son.

See Also: 2021 Harvest Updates

A mod­er­ate har­vest­ing sea­son is ahead for the whole island,” the own­ers of the Kydonakis Bros olive oil mill, located south of Heraklion, told Olive Oil Times. The dis­crep­an­cies in olive oil pro­duc­tion are a con­se­quence of the bizarre weather pat­tern of the pre­vi­ous months, which dis­or­ga­nized the olive trees.”

Producers who grow their trees at a rel­a­tively high alti­tude can get sub­stan­tial quan­ti­ties of olive oil,” they added. In the low­lands, the vol­ume of olive oil is reduced and we advise the pro­duc­ers to post­pone har­vest­ing until the olives are ripe enough for a good yield.”

On the other hand, they noted that the qual­ity of the season’s fresh olive oils is high.

In our area, olive oil qual­ity is bet­ter than ever, and we have seen many olive oils with acidi­ties rang­ing from 0.1 to 0.2,” the mill own­ers said.

Having also in mind that a mediocre sea­son is usu­ally fol­lowed by a pros­per­ous one, all signs show that we are head­ing toward a ven­tema’ [boun­teous har­vest] next year, pro­vided that no sur­prises occur on the way,” they added.

However, the qual­ity pro­duc­ers south of Heraklion reap is not evi­dent in other parts of the island. Apart from the decrease in the olive oil quan­tity, the dry weather con­di­tions also took their toll on the high-qual­ity cal­iber of Cretan olive oil.

Some fresh olive oils are less aro­matic this sea­son,” Nikos Michelakis, the sci­en­tific advi­sor of the asso­ci­a­tion of the olive oil-mak­ing munic­i­pal­i­ties of Crete (SEDIK), told local media in Chania.

This is due to the pro­longed sum­mer drought that dried out many of the olive fruits, which then could not bounce back. So the olive oils pro­duced are not as fine as expected.”

Olive trees in other areas of the coun­try have endured the threat­en­ing unsea­son­able weather, with local pro­duc­ers ahead of a sat­is­fy­ing har­vest.

Twenty days ago we pro­duced early fresh olive oils with yields of six to one, while a few days ago we reached 4.8 to one, even bet­ter,” said Spyros Velmahos, a pro­ducer from Petalidi in Messinia. This means that from a sack of olives we got 10.6 kilo­grams of olive oil. Problems occurred only in areas where the heat­wave hit the trees at a bad time, caus­ing the oil con­tent [of the olive fruits] to be reduced.”

Once again, the pat­tern is not ubiq­ui­tous; other pro­duc­ers in the region told Olive Oil Times that the season’s poten­tial is lim­ited mostly due to the reduced fruition of the olive trees.

See Also: Heavy Downpours Dampen Harvest Outlook in Greece

If you pass out­side the oil mills these days, there are only a few sacks of olives wait­ing to be milled,” they said. There should be many more, but the olive trees were only half-loaded with olives and the sea­son is short. Hopefully, the next one will be bet­ter.”

On the island of Lesbos, olive oil pro­duc­tion is expected to fare lower than the 10,000 tons ini­tially expected, instead, reach­ing around 6,000 tons, accord­ing to the local office of agri­cul­ture and vet­eri­nary ser­vices. As a result, local pro­duc­ers rely more on qual­ity than quan­tity this sea­son.

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We expect pre­mium qual­ity,” mill owner Dimitris Soulakis told Olive Oil Times. However, the vol­ume of the olive oil pro­duced on the island is less than usual. The har­vest here used to begin in November and some­times lasted until April, but now it is going to end much sooner.”

The over­all olive oil pro­duc­tion will by no means be even close to the 10,000 or 12,000 tons the island makes in good times,” he added. The main rea­son for the reduced crop is the reduced blos­som­ing of the olive trees which were impacted by the unnat­u­rally warm weather of last spring.”

In north­ern Greece, most olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions appear highly affected by unfa­vor­able weather con­di­tions, with pro­duc­ers speak­ing of a cat­a­strophic sea­son.

We were expect­ing 20 per­cent of our usual pro­duc­tion, but we finally got noth­ing,” said Dimosthenis Hatzinikolaou, head of the agri­cul­tural olive oil asso­ci­a­tion of Makri, in the Evros region.

Many pro­duc­ers will have to buy olive oil for domes­tic use,” he added. The dam­age was caused by the lack of fruition, the hail and the frost. Our olive oil mill oper­ates only two days a week and the har­vest has already been com­pleted.”

A sim­i­lar pat­tern exists in other pro­duc­ing areas of north­ern Greece, includ­ing Kavala and the island of Thasos, where olive oil pro­duc­tion is halved this sea­son com­pared to pre­vi­ous crop years.

Meanwhile, the reduced quan­tity of olive oil has resulted in increased pro­duc­ers’ prices; how­ever, high prices alone are not a sign of a suc­cess­ful sea­son, accord­ing to some.

Prices are very good,” said mill owner Yorgos Roundos from Halkidiki. We hear about pro­duc­ers sell­ing 15 kilo­grams of olive oil for €75 to €80. However, what can you do with qual­ity if there is no quan­tity?”





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