Production in Turkey Rebounds as Farmers Show Their Resilience

Olive oil production in Turkey is expected to exceed 235,000 tons, the country’s second-highest total. Table olive production will reach a record high.

Bahar Alan
Nov. 17, 2021
By Daniel Dawson
Bahar Alan

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It has been one month since farm­ers began har­vest­ing olives across Turkey, and many already antic­i­pate an excep­tional sea­son.

Mustafa Tan, the pres­i­dent of Turkey’s National Olive and Olive Oil Council, told Olive Oil Times that the world’s fourth-largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing nation will yield 235,700 tons of olive oil and a record-high 506,800 tons of table olives in the 2021/22 crop year.

The unex­pected major impact rose from the global sup­ply chain cri­sis, in which it became very hard and costly to acquire any­thing that’s not imme­di­ately within the local area.- Ahat Caskurlu, co-founder, Zeytín Oil

If the olive oil fig­ures come to fruition, it would be Turkey’s sec­ond-high­est pro­duc­tion total, about 30,000 tons shy of the record har­vest in the 2017/18 crop year.

See Also: 2021 Harvest Updates

With this year’s har­vest amount record­ing a 35-per­cent increase, Turkey is one of the few coun­tries with growth and looks like it had a min­i­mal impact from (the effects of) cli­mate change,” Tan said. The season’s olive oil pro­duc­tion amount is up 24 per­cent com­pared to the aver­age of the last 10 years.”

Despite the excel­lent pro­duc­tion fig­ures for both olive oil and table olives, the crop year has also been a dif­fi­cult one. Producers once again cited cli­mate change as an ongo­ing chal­lenge dur­ing the har­vest. However, the global sup­ply chain cri­sis and ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs were also cited as major chal­lenges.

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The biggest chal­lenge of the sea­son was in the labor area mainly because of the higher-than-expected costs cou­pled with the dif­fi­cul­ties in find­ing qual­i­fied work­ers for the har­vest,” Tan said. The increases in the agri­cul­tural input costs are neg­a­tively impact­ing the sus­tain­abil­ity of olive pro­duc­tion.”

The wild­fires that burned across south­west­ern Turkey also impacted many pro­duc­ers this year. Tan esti­mated that 500,000 trees were dam­aged by the blazes.

However, the dam­age was not as bad as it could have been. Tan said about 5,500 tons of olives were destroyed by the fires, which he fig­ures would have been trans­formed into about 1,000 tons of olive oil, a very small loss in over­all pro­duc­tion.

A com­bi­na­tion of the olive tree’s nat­ural resilience to adver­sity and some gov­ern­ment sup­port for affected grow­ers also have helped the region begin to rebuild.

Thanks to the regen­er­a­tion fea­ture of the olive tree, these trees are already show­ing great recov­ery,” Tan said. The impacted areas will be sup­ported by the gov­ern­ment via access to free saplings and credit.”

While the summer’s wild­fires cap­tured the global community’s atten­tion, unpre­dictable and extreme weather paired with an over­all trend of an increas­ingly hot and dry cli­mate remained a larger con­cern for local grow­ers.

africa-middle-east-business-production-production-in-turkey-rebounds-as-farmers-show-their-resilience-olive-oil-times

Photo: Bahar Alan

We believe cli­mate change will be the night­mare of all grow­ers and farm­ers in the future,” Bahar Alan, the owner of Nova Vera, told Olive Oil Times. We are fac­ing the effects of heavy rains dur­ing flow­er­ing sea­sons, lack of cold when required and extreme waves of hot or cold weather. These all decrease crop per­for­mance through­out the world.”

Nova Vera boasts more than 160 hectares of groves in the Ayvalik and Manisa regions, which are described as Turkey’s old and new cen­ters of olive grow­ing. Alan expects to pro­duce about 120 to 130 tons of olive oil this year, a 15 to 20-per­cent increase com­pared to last year.

She added that her oper­a­tion remained largely unaf­fected by the wild­fires, but national pro­duc­tion would be hurt in the future. Local bee pop­u­la­tions, which are one of the olive trees’ main pol­li­na­tors, were heav­ily impacted by the fires.

This year both the wild­fires in south­ern Turkey and the cli­mate dur­ing the sea­son affected neg­a­tively the amount of Memecik cul­ti­var in Turkey,” Alan said. This caused the olive prices to increase enor­mously com­pared to last year. Turkey’s north­ern Aegean part is per­form­ing bet­ter in terms of pro­duc­tiv­ity this year.”

Luckily our groves were not affected by the wild­fires directly,” she added. However, we know that the sig­nif­i­cant decrease in bee pop­u­la­tion because of the wild­fires in this area will have a neg­a­tive impact on pro­duc­tiv­ity in the long run.”

Situated in Çine, a mod­estly sized city and dis­trict in Turkey’s south­west­ern Aegean region, the pro­duc­ers behind Oleamea are also antic­i­pat­ing a pro­duc­tion increase, with a yield of more than 100 tons.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Turkey

We are cur­rently look­ing for an increase from last year as our busi­ness expands in the United States, European Union and Asian retail spaces,” co-owner Merve Doran told Olive Oil Times.

As a result of this expan­sion, Doran empha­sized that qual­ity remains key to being com­pet­i­tive in so many for­eign mar­kets.

One thing, which is the most impor­tant thing, is the qual­ity,” Doran said. Year to year, our only focus is to increase our capac­ity and keep the same award-win­ning qual­ity prod­ucts.”

Along with Alan, Doran also empha­sized the chal­lenges posed by cli­mate change, both to her oper­a­tion and the wider olive oil sec­tor in Turkey.

The drought we have expe­ri­enced this year was noth­ing com­pared to any other year,” she said. We didn’t really see any rain from May of 2021 until October 2021. This is one of the biggest chal­lenges our indus­try sees that has direct effects on.”

Yusuf Ozpinar, the man­ag­ing part­ner of Zetmar Food and International Trading Company, agreed that cli­mate remains his biggest con­cern.

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Photo: Yusuf Ozpinar

This sum­mer was like some­thing we have never expe­ri­enced before and it is obvi­ous that cli­mate change will be our great­est chal­lenge for the next cou­ple of years,” Ozpinar told Olive Oil Times. Specific to har­vest­ing; tem­per­a­tures being 1.5 ºC to 2 ºC above the sea­sonal norm will cost us almost a 15-per­cent pro­duc­tiv­ity loss this year.”

Summer droughts, high tem­per­a­tures, poor irri­ga­tion and less rain even in autumn have stressed the trees out and caused olive dru­pes to fall off with­out first fat­ten­ing,” he added.

Ozpinar pre­vi­ously planned to pro­duce between 16 to 18 tons of olive oil from his company’s trees but has revised this down to 13 to 14 tons. He also plans to pro­duce an addi­tional 30 tons of oil from olives he buys from other farm­ers.

Despite the chal­lenges, he still expects to pro­duce more olive oil this year than last year but will have to wait until much later in the sea­son than usual to find out for sure.

Under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, all farm­ers usu­ally com­plete their har­vest at the lat­est by mid-December, but air tem­per­a­tures con­tinue to be higher than usual,” he said. Therefore, the olive dru­pes did not fat­ten yet. As far as I can see, the major­ity of farm­ers decided to delay their har­vest as well.”

See Also: Turkey Lifts Ban on Bulk Olive Oil Exports Ahead of Schedule

While cli­mate is never far from a farmer’s mind, the 2021/22 crop year brought dif­fer­ent types of chal­lenges as well. The resid­ual impacts of the Covid-19 pan­demic have exac­er­bated the global sup­ply chain cri­sis, which has given pro­duc­ers a new and unique set of obsta­cles to over­come.

Ahat Caskurlu, the co-founder of Zeytín Oil, told Olive Oil Times that he expects to pro­duce 25,000 liters of olive oil this year, a decline to 20 to 25-per­cent.

Unlike many of his col­leagues, the cli­mate was not at the top of his list of con­cerns this sea­son. He acknowl­edged that a hail storm ear­lier in the year dam­aged some of his fruit, but said the cli­mate last crop year was far more prob­lem­atic.

The unex­pected major impact rose from the global sup­ply chain cri­sis, in which it became very hard and costly to acquire any­thing that’s not imme­di­ately within the local area,” Caskurlu said.

When machin­ery broke or needs parts, we faced major delays and more than 100-per­cent price increases,” he added. The global spike in gas prices also ham­pered our busi­ness sig­nif­i­cantly as olives and olive oil is costly to move to ports from inner Turkey.”

For Caskurlu and other pro­duc­ers who export the major­ity of their olive oils abroad, the biggest near-term prob­lem is the global ship­ping cri­sis.

The biggest near-term chal­lenge for us is the ocean freight costs, which still haven’t recov­ered to nor­mal or accept­able pre-pan­demic lev­els,” he con­cluded. We’re cur­rently updat­ing our pack­ag­ing and pal­let struc­tures to try and mit­i­gate the impact.”


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