Producers in Crete Stunned by Precarious Crop

A sudden outburst of the fruit fly and other pathogens inflicted unexpected damage on the island's farms.

Crete, Greece
Nov. 18, 2019
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Crete, Greece

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Anxiety has over­whelmed many olive oil pro­duc­ers in Crete as, con­trary to some early pre­dic­tions for a strong yield, this season’s har­vest seems to head toward a poor pro­duc­tion both in terms of quan­tity and quality.

I have never seen such a prob­lem­atic olive oil crop in our area since my involve­ment with the sec­tor back in 1995.- Nektarios Paraschakis, Agricultural Association of Chania

The cir­cum­stances are ter­ri­ble all over the island,” said Giorgos Andreadakis, head of the Cretan Association of Olive Oil Bottlers.

It will be an achieve­ment to pro­duce 60,000 tons over­all, and most of it will be of infe­rior qual­ity,” Andreadakis added. Once again pro­duc­ers will lose 30 to 40 per­cent of their pro­duc­tion and, in advance, they will not really have any income since most of the fresh olive oil is defec­tive and cat­e­go­rized as lam­pante oil of low value. We can­not even find the vol­ume of qual­ity olive oil we need to standardize.”

Myron Hilentzakis, the deputy direc­tor of the Agricultural Association of Heraklion, spoke of an unprece­dented predica­ment for grow­ers and producers.

We had never before dealt with lam­pante olive oil and this is an extra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion,” Hilentzakis said. We have strug­gled for years invest­ing in extra vir­gin olive oil, and now the fruit fly has caused the olives to fall on the ground and, even more, it has affected the acid­ity of the olive oil the remain­ing olives give, lead­ing to a mul­ti­lay­ered problem.”

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Agriculturist Varvara Sfakianakis from the local Department of Agriculture at Heraklion told Olive Oil Times that the recent weather con­di­tions are to blame for the omi­nous situation.

Because of the warm and humid weather of the last two months, there was a sud­den out­break of the fruit fly and pathogens like the gloeospo­rium in our area,” she explained. Before the har­vest, we were expect­ing around 40,000 tons of olive oil from the region of Heraklion, but now we are not even close to this. Still, we have to wait for another month to have a com­plete pic­ture of the olive oil yield.”

Sfakianakis con­tin­ued, Due to lack of resources there were some prob­lems with the crop-dust­ing oper­a­tions car­ried out in the sum­mer to fight the fruit fly. On top of that, we observed that the fly has devel­oped some sort of resis­tance to some pes­ti­cides used. In any case, the actual cause of the prob­lem is cli­mate change and the unusual con­di­tions pre­vail­ing in the micro­cli­mate of our area.”

On the west side of Crete, Nektarios Paraschakis of the Agricultural Association of Chania described the sit­u­a­tion to Olive Oil Times in its full dimension.

Contrary to the last pros­per­ous har­vest sea­son, this sea­son is a tragic one so far,” he said. Our mill has pro­duced 150 tons of olive oil up to now, com­pared to 450 tons the same time period last sea­son. And only 15 of the 150 tons are extra vir­gin olive oil.”

The rea­son for the dis­as­trous crop is again no other than the fruit fly and other pathogens, Paraschakis told us.

The tem­per­a­ture here is cur­rently at 25°C (77°F), which is quite high for this time of the year and favors the olive tree pathogens,” he said. So, there was a late man­i­fes­ta­tion of the fruit fly and other microbes that reduced the quan­tity and qual­ity of the crop. Most of the olive oil pro­duced in the area is of high acid­ity with defects and is cat­e­go­rized as lam­pante oil that will be sent to refiner­ies for fur­ther pro­cess­ing. Quality olive oil this year in our area is pro­duced only from some olive groves located on hill slopes.”

Paraschakis sum­moned the state to pro­vide finan­cial sup­port for the dam­age and more means to cope with the fruit fly threat. He also pointed out that local grow­ers and pro­duc­ers should be aware that, from now on and due to the novel cir­cum­stances shaped by the adverse weather, con­stant vig­i­lance and care for the olive trees is required through­out the year for a sub­stan­tial olive oil yield to become feasible.

I have never seen such a prob­lem­atic olive oil crop in our area since my involve­ment with the sec­tor back in 1995,” Paraschakis revealed while end­ing the con­ver­sa­tion. I am an olive tree grower myself, and I am not sure if I will be able to get some good olive oil from my groves for my family.”

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