Olive Oil Producers in Greece Brace for Steep Production Decline

Warm weather, low fruition levels and the emergence of the fruit fly pose significant challenges to olive oil producers towards the next harvesting season.
Olive grove in Messinia, Greece
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Jul. 31, 2023 14:00 UTC

While the next olive har­vest is expected to begin in Greece in two months, olive oil pro­duc­ers across the coun­try are dis­heart­ened by the prob­lems afflict­ing their groves.

There is high anx­i­ety about the out­come of the com­ing crop,” Ioannis Kampouris, a pro­ducer based in the Korinthia region in the north­east­ern Peloponnese, told Olive Oil Times. The low fruition and the fruit fly will be at the fore­front of the olive har­vest.”

Greece will likely yield approx­i­mately 200,000 tons of olive oil this sea­son. This is partly due to the high pro­duc­tion of the last crop year and partly to the impact of the fruit fly and the reduced fruition this year.- Ioannis Kampouris, olive oil pro­ducer

According to the regional gov­ern­ment, the fruit set­ting of the olive trees is sig­nif­i­cantly reduced across the penin­sula ahead of the 2023/24 crop year.

I want to say from the out­set that there is a big prob­lem for both [the olive trees] fruit set­ting and viti­cul­ture,” said deputy gov­er­nor Stathis Anastasopoulos in a regional coun­cil meet­ing early this month.

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

“[The reduced] fruition case refers to both table olives, where the sit­u­a­tion is more seri­ous, and olives des­tined for olive oil pro­duc­tion,” he added. All these prob­lems are the result of cli­mate change, the changes we all see every day.”

Kampouris echoed the words of the deputy gov­er­nor, also pro­ject­ing a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in the country’s over­all olive oil pro­duc­tion com­pared to last year’s boun­ti­ful yield of more than 300,000 tons.

The Peloponnese will expe­ri­ence a late olive har­vest due to the pre­vail­ing weather con­di­tions,” he said. In advance, some pro­duc­ing ter­ri­to­ries [on the penin­sula] are hav­ing prob­lems with the fruit fly, while oth­ers suf­fer from a lack of fruition. This is the case in our region also.”

Greece will likely yield approx­i­mately 200,000 tons of olive oil this sea­son,” Kampouris added. This is partly due to the high pro­duc­tion of the last crop year and partly to the impact of the fruit fly and the reduced fruition this year.”

Across the penin­sula, in the south­east­ern Laconia region, the fruit fly is already threat­en­ing the region’s olive har­vest.

The weather con­di­tions have favored the fruit fly to man­i­fest itself in large parts of the region’s olive groves,” said Ioannis Rallis of the local agri­cul­ture depart­ment.

Any pes­ti­cide oper­a­tions should be cau­tious and well-coor­di­nated this sea­son,” he added. The pos­i­tive thing is that [the olive trees] are hav­ing a late flow­er­ing and fruit­ing this year.”

Meanwhile, on Crete, experts have warned of one of the island’s worst crop years ever recorded.

Advise peo­ple to save this year’s oil to use it next year as well,” Manolis Gelasakis, a now-retired agron­o­mist who over­saw olive fruit fly con­tain­ment oper­a­tions on Crete for many years, told local media.

For as long as I have been alive, I can­not remem­ber a worse year than this one, at least in Viannos [a munic­i­pal­ity near Heraklion] and on the wider coastal front,” he added.

The tem­per­a­ture rose sharply after the recent rains,” Gelasakis con­tin­ued. And the first flow­ers of the olive trees were burned and fell off. Now, the same olive trees are flow­er­ing again. We won’t have any olives next year, as far as our area is con­cerned.”

According to Vaggelis Protogerakis, the head of the olive oil pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion of Heraklion, the upcom­ing har­vest is expected to be dis­tress­ing for pro­duc­ers across the island.


There are prob­lems in many pro­duc­ing ter­ri­to­ries of Crete,” he said. Everywhere we see partheno­carpy [the devel­op­ment of the olive fruit with­out fer­til­iza­tion] and dou­ble fruition. Many olive trees started to blos­som too early because of the warm weather.”

Protogerakis called on the local author­i­ties to start doc­u­ment­ing the inflicted dam­age on the island’s olive trees.

He also expressed con­cerns about whether the high pro­ducer prices, around €6 per kilo­gram of low-acid­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, will be main­tained on the island.

It would be a pity to lose the olive har­vest this year since we were expect­ing to get even higher prices at the open­ing of the sea­son,” he said.

The issue of reduced fruition is also evi­dent in the olive groves of Lesbos, where the adverse weather has upset the pro­duc­tion cycle of the island’s olive trees.

Winters on Lesbos have been dry and warm dur­ing the last three years,” Stratis Sloumatis of the Stypsi asso­ci­a­tion of pro­duc­ers in the north of the island told Olive Oil Times.

Consequently, the blos­som­ing of the olive trees is reduced,” he added. Even worse, not all blos­soms trans­form into olive fruits in the end. We are start­ing to see con­sec­u­tive years of lower than usual olive oil yields.”

Nevertheless, based on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of our groves, we expect the whole island to fare a lit­tle bet­ter this year com­pared to last season’s very poor olive har­vest,” Sloumatis con­tin­ued.

In Thrace, the north­ern­most region of Greece where olives are cul­ti­vated, the upcom­ing har­vest is also expected to be far from sub­stan­tial, with the olive trees being affected by an intense lack of fruition.

Despite the abun­dant spring rains, the com­ing crop year will be almost com­pletely empty due to extremely low fruition,” Dimitrios Adamidis of Konos, a pro­ducer near the city of Alexandroupolis, told Olive Oil Times. I would describe it as cat­a­strophic.”

The area is home to Makri olives, an indige­nous olive cul­ti­var that yields the Protected Designation of Origin-cer­ti­fied Makri olive oil.

Adamidis asserted that the absence of olives from the trees is not due to the on and off years’ in olive oil pro­duc­tion but to the area’s olive trees being severely impacted by the warmer-than-usual weather dom­i­nat­ing the area.

On and off yearsproduction-business-europe-olive-oil-producers-in-greece-brace-for-steep-production-decline-olive-oil-times

In the con­text of olive oil pro­duc­tion, the term off-year” refers to a year in which olive trees pro­duce a lower yield of olives. Olive trees have a nat­ural cycle of alter­nat­ing high and low pro­duc­tion years, known as on-years” and off-years,” respec­tively. During an on-year, the olive trees bear a greater quan­tity of fruit, result­ing in increased olive oil pro­duc­tion. This is influ­enced by var­i­ous fac­tors, includ­ing weather con­di­tions, such as rain­fall and tem­per­a­ture, as well as the tree’s age and over­all health. Conversely, an off-year, also known as a light year” or low pro­duc­tion year,” is char­ac­ter­ized by a reduced yield of olives. This can occur due to fac­tors like stress from the pre­vi­ous on year, unfa­vor­able weather con­di­tions or nat­ural fluc­tu­a­tions in the tree’s pro­duc­tiv­ity. Olive oil pro­duc­ers often mon­i­tor these cycles to antic­i­pate and plan for vari­a­tions in pro­duc­tion. On-years are gen­er­ally pre­ferred as they pro­vide higher quan­ti­ties of olives for har­vest­ing and pro­cess­ing, lead­ing to increased olive oil out­put.

We always take good care of our trees to avoid any seri­ous alter­na­tions in fruit bear­ing year after year,” he said. The rea­son for the expected heav­ily reduced olive yield is the unnat­u­rally warm weather. Makri trees, more than other olive cul­ti­vars, need a sub­stan­tial amount of chill hours in win­ter to be able to bear fruit in spring, which they sim­ply did not get.”

We have also estab­lished a one-night har­vest­ing event here under the full moon in win­ter, which will be going on for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year,” he con­cluded. Our main inten­tion is to com­mu­ni­cate our con­cerns about the ris­ing tem­per­a­tures to every­body.”


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