`Table Olives: Kalamata PDO a Mixed Blessing - Olive Oil Times

Table Olives: Kalamata PDO a Mixed Blessing

Nov. 26, 2012
Costas Vasilopoulos

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With the olive har­vest­ing hav­ing already begun and tak­ing into account that many areas of the coun­try have been affected by the sum­mer drought, there are mixed feel­ings about this sea­son’s olive oil yield and prices.

But while most of the focus is on the olive oil, there is a lurk­ing debate over edi­ble olives, which con­sti­tute a smaller, but prof­itable, sec­tor here.

As the To Vima news­pa­per reports, this season’s har­vest in Greece is expected to be the biggest since 1980 giv­ing almost 300,000 tons of olives. But with bank financ­ing vir­tu­ally non-exis­tent because of the tor­mented country’s econ­omy, trad­ing firms can­not buy the amount of olives they need to sus­tain their sales. To add insult to injury, prices for edi­ble olives are expected to be 20 — 30 per­cent less than last year’s due to the large pro­duc­tion.

However, this is not the case for the well-known Kalamata olive vari­ety. Worldwide demand for Kalamata always exceeds sup­ply and the spe­cific vari­ety can sus­tain bet­ter prices than any other. Still, its suc­cess cre­ates a point of dis­agree­ment; Kalamata olives hold a Protected Designation of Origin’ (PDO) label, which sig­nals its spe­cial value to con­sumers.

By def­i­n­i­tion, the PDO tag is a loca­tion-spe­cific prize and deter­mines that only olives com­ing from the Messinia region at south­ern Peloponnesus can bear the title, despite the fact that olives of the same vari­ety can be pro­duced else­where.

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So, as the PDO label allows for the olive pro­duc­ers and traders of Messinia to sell at higher prices, it also blocks pro­duc­ers of other areas to col­lect big­ger prof­its. And recently, the Ministry of Agriculture has accepted demands to apply to the European Union for expand­ing the Kalamata olives’ PDO to neigh­bor­ing areas of Messinia, a request that in turn drew com­plaints from other regions that want their share.

The issue illus­trates how a PDO label can be a mixed bless­ing for the indus­try since it pro­vides space for con­flict so unde­sir­able today when sol­i­dar­ity should pre­vail.



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