Promising Signs of a Robust Harvest in Greece

Contrary to other main European producers, Greece expects a substantial increase in its harvest yield. However, significant challenges could hamper the final tally.

Crete, Greece
Sep. 29, 2022
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Crete, Greece

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After a mod­er­ate yield of 227,000 tons of olive oil last year, a sig­nif­i­cant increase in olive oil pro­duc­tion is expected in Greece in the 2022/23 crop year.

According to some esti­mates, the amount of olive oil pro­duced nation­ally will likely be near or even exceed 300,000 tons, five years after the 2017/18 har­vest sea­son when the coun­try yielded 346,000 tons.

This season’s yield will be a record-set­ting one, espe­cially along the coastal zone (of Crete). However, the lack of field labor­ers is a huge prob­lem.- Yiorgos Motakis, head, Palea Roumata agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion

Greece expe­ri­enced a mild sum­mer, unlike the excep­tion­ally hot and dry weather con­di­tions that pre­vailed in much of west­ern and south­ern Europe, caus­ing har­vest esti­mates in major pro­duc­ing coun­tries such as Spain and Italy to be revised down­ward.

Several olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions of Greece, includ­ing Ilia in the Peloponnese, Aetolia-Acarnania in the west­ern main­land and Magnesia in cen­tral Greece, are expected to rebound from last year’s low to aver­age pro­duc­tion and head toward robust har­vest.

See Also:2022 Harvest Updates

However, the man­i­fes­ta­tion of olive fruit fly pop­u­la­tions in some pro­duc­ing areas, mainly in the Peloponnese and Crete, the two hubs of the Greek olive oil indus­try, is a cause of con­cern for local grow­ers and pro­duc­ers.

In south­ern Peloponnese, the regions of Messenia and Laconia are both set for dou­ble-fig­ure pro­duc­tion increases, accord­ing to the local depart­ments of agri­cul­ture.

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The pro­vi­sional out­put esti­mates from the depart­ments place Messenia’s olive oil yield close to 40,000 tons (up by 20 per­cent) while neigh­bor­ing Laconia expects around 30,000 tons (an increase of 50 per­cent).

Local pro­duc­ers also antic­i­pate a bumper olive oil crop, far bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous mediocre har­vest.

We expect our area to yield around 4,500 tons this year, which trans­lates to 90 per­cent of the area’s pro­duc­tion capac­ity,” Panayiotis Batzakis, the head of the Agioi Apostoloi agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion in Laconia, told Olive Oil Times. Last year, we only man­aged to reach half of our pro­duc­tion capac­ity.”

We have zero prob­lems with the fruit fly so far, and the ample rains in win­ter were ben­e­fi­cial for the olive trees,” Batzakis con­tin­ued. We mostly cul­ti­vate trees of the Athinolia vari­ety, which gives some very aro­matic olive oils.”

Batzakis added that a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge for local pro­duc­ers is the scarcity of labor­ers and the high cost of hir­ing work­ers who are still avail­able.

Most for­eign work­ers have left for Italy,” he said. In advance, wages have risen and pro­duc­ers must pay all taxes for each worker they employ. Considering all the other expenses, har­vest costs have sky­rock­eted. The state must inter­vene to pro­vide a solu­tion.”

Batzakis also noted that pro­duc­ers’ prices cur­rently remain at sat­is­fac­tory lev­els, with a kilo­gram of fresh extra vir­gin olive oil sell­ing for €4.80 to €4.90 in the area.

Other pro­duc­ers from the two regions told Olive Oil Times that the fruition of the olive trees is sat­is­fy­ing.

However, they added that the olive fruit fly, a sig­nif­i­cant pest, has made its pres­ence felt in some areas, aided by the lack of sig­nif­i­cant sum­mer heat­waves (with tem­per­a­tures above 35 °C), which would pre­vent the insect from breed­ing.

On Crete, olive grow­ers and pro­duc­ers are bank­ing on a record olive oil har­vest of more than 100,000 tons, although anx­i­ety exists regard­ing the impact of the fruit fly on pro­duc­tion.

This sea­son’s yield will be a record-set­ting one, espe­cially along the coastal zone,” said Yiorgos Motakis, a pro­ducer and the head of the Palea Roumata agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion near Chania. Some pro­duc­ers have already started har­vest­ing their olives. However, the lack of field labor­ers is a huge prob­lem.”

Motakis added that fruit fly pop­u­la­tions in increased num­bers had been recorded in the area, crit­i­ciz­ing the actions to con­tain the pest as inef­fec­tive.

The insects are thriv­ing,” he said. The crop-dust­ing oper­a­tions were done using only one type of pes­ti­cide, which is unac­cept­able. Pesticides should be alter­nated, and oper­a­tions should have been com­pleted sooner. The prob­lem will be evi­dent dur­ing har­vest.”

The island of Lesbos in the east­ern Aegean Sea, a tra­di­tional olive oil-pro­duc­ing ter­ri­tory of Greece, is also expected to fare sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter this year than pre­vi­ous crop years, with a pro­duc­tion of around 15,000 tons of olive oil.

In north­ern Greece, pro­duc­ers in Chalkidiki are opti­mistic about a strong olive oil yield this sea­son.

It looks like a good year,” said Yiorgos Rountos, a pro­ducer and miller based on the penin­sula. There are no prob­lems with the fruit fly so far since there were no rains, only some squalls occurred in late August, so we expect [olive oil] of really high qual­ity.”

In the north­east­ern dis­trict of Alexandroupolis, the olive trees’ unob­structed spring flow­er­ing has led to branches over­loaded with olive dru­pes.

However, in the nearby area of Makri, the olive moth has already taken its toll on the area’s olive trees.

The olive moth has caused an extended olive fruit drop in our area,” Valia Kelidou of Kyklopas, a pro­duc­ing com­pany based in Makri and a repeated win­ner at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, told Olive Oil Times. The fruit fly is nowhere to be seen for the time being.”

Kelidou added that Makri would fare bet­ter than in pre­vi­ous years in terms of olive oil quan­tity. However, she iden­ti­fied ris­ing pro­ducer costs as a seri­ous hin­drance to a reward­ing har­vest.

Despite expect­ing a strong yield, pro­duc­ers can­not be sat­is­fied due to the increased costs,” she said. The prices of energy, fuel, fer­til­izer and equip­ment are ris­ing dra­mat­i­cally. Workers are also hard to come by, and their daily rates are increas­ing.”

Despite the prob­lems, our mill will start its oper­a­tion early this sea­son, and we hope it is going to be a good olive oil sea­son both in qual­ity and quan­tity,” she finally said. After all, the area of Makri is widely rec­og­nized for the pre­mium qual­ity olive oil it pro­duces.”



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