Signs Suggest a Weak Harvest in Turkey

Official estimates will not be published until September, but producers in Turkey said cold and rainy weather combined with the earthquake has led to scarce fruit.

(Photo: Zayto)
By Daniel Dawson
Jul. 20, 2023 14:44 UTC
(Photo: Zayto)

After last year’s record-high yield of 421,000 tons, olive grow­ers and oil pro­duc­ers in Turkey expect a lower har­vest in the 2023/24 crop year.

Producers across the country’s most fruit­ful olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions said cold and rainy weather in the spring had dam­aged olive trees as they were blos­som­ing, leav­ing many bar­ren.

Low tem­per­a­tures in November and rainy days at the begin­ning of December may increase the per­cent­age of oil in olive fruits. That would be the ideal con­di­tion.- Yusuf Ozpinar, man­ag­ing part­ner, Zetmar Food and International Trading Company

Furthermore, the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quakes that shook east­ern Turkey in February dam­aged olive trees and mills in the region.

After enjoy­ing a bumper har­vest in the 2022/23 crop year, Yusuf Ozpinar, the man­ag­ing part­ner of Zetmar Food and International Trading Company, said he expected to pro­duce 60 per­cent less olive oil in 2023/24 from his groves in south­west­ern Turkey.

See Also:Harvest Updates

There was a sig­nif­i­cant change in the tim­ing of the spring sea­son,” he told Olive Oil Times. We had a longer win­ter this year. During the blos­som­ing period, the air tem­per­a­ture was lower than usual, and we had a lot of rainy days, which affected the fruit set­ting neg­a­tively. We didn’t see it yet, but too much rain in the spring may cause fun­gal dis­eases too.”

From her van­tage point in Mut, a dis­trict located on Turkey’s south­ern coast, Esra Deniz, owner of Ezra Olive Oil, con­firmed that hail has dev­as­tated her har­vest as well.

I lost half my olives because of hail,” she told Olive Oil Times. Deniz added that erratic weather, includ­ing tor­ren­tial rain­fall in June after long months of drought, and ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs were the main chal­lenges she expects to face ahead of the har­vest.

Taking a wider view of the sit­u­a­tion, Mustafa Tan, pres­i­dent of the National Olive and Olive Oil Council, said that pro­duc­tion would likely decrease but that it remained too early to pre­dict how much olive oil will be pro­duced in 2023/24. The coun­cil will pub­lish its offi­cial har­vest esti­mate in September.

In its own pre­lim­i­nary esti­mate in May, the United States Department of Agriculture pre­dicted that pro­duc­tion would decrease to 280,000 tons in the 2023/24 crop year. However, the orga­ni­za­tion added that their esti­mates would con­tinue to change as the sea­son unfolded.

In its esti­mate, the USDA attrib­uted the har­vest decrease to many pro­duc­ers in the coun­try enter­ing a off-year’ in the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree.

On and off yearsproduction-business-africa-middle-east-signs-suggest-a-weak-harvest-in-turkey-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.

Tuba Yilmaz, the founder of Gaia Oliva, con­firmed that she expects her har­vest to decline this year due to many of her groves enter­ing an off-year.’

Turkey is not a coun­try where olive pro­duc­tion is con­sis­tent in every given year,” Yilmaz told Olive Oil Times. It is a geog­ra­phy where olive trees would yield plenty in one year and less in the fol­low­ing.”

Since the pre­vi­ous year was the year of abun­dance, we expect to have a decrease in olive pro­duc­tion com­pared to last year,” she added.


Tuba Yilmaz expects her production to decrease in 2023/24 due to her grvoes entering an off-year.’

Yilmaz said data that she has seen indi­cates olive oil pro­duc­tion may fall by as much as one-third, attribut­ing this to rain and hail that affected groves across west­ern and south­ern Turkey along with many groves enter­ing an off-year.’

Bahar Alan, the owner of NovaVera, told Olive Oil Times that data she has seen from the Turkish Statistical Insitute’s crop pro­duc­tion fore­cast report indi­cate a wor­ri­some 25 per­cent decrease com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year.”


This decline in yield is a cause for con­cern and empha­sizes the urgency of address­ing cli­mate change and its impli­ca­tions on agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity,” Alan said.

Farmers in Turkey’s olive groves have encoun­tered chal­lenges due to the unusu­ally high tem­per­a­tures and heavy rain­fall dur­ing the flow­er­ing time,” she added. Especially our groves in the Manisa region [in west­ern Turkey] were affected by heavy rains and hails. Both con­di­tions have affected the pol­li­na­tion process, lead­ing to lower fruit set and reduced olive yields.”


Heavy rain and hail are expected to contribute to declining olive production in NovaVera’s olive groves in western Turkey.

Zeynep Belger, the founder of Zayto, told Olive Oil Times that late-spring rain also had dam­aged the olive trees as they were flow­er­ing. She now expects to pro­duce 50 per­cent less olive oil than she pre­vi­ously antic­i­pated.

It is a farmer’s life; every year comes with dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances, and this year is no dif­fer­ent,” she told Olive Oil Times.

Unlike many oth­ers, Belger said the drought had severely lim­ited her pro­duc­tion in the pre­vi­ous two crop years, led her to invest in a drip irri­ga­tion sys­tem, and hoped this would be a rebound sea­son.

While cold and rainy weather has ham­pered olive devel­op­ment in west­ern Turkey, suc­ces­sive 7.8 and 7.5 mag­ni­tude earth­quakes shook south­east­ern Turkey and north­ern Syria on February 6th, result­ing in 60,000 deaths, hun­dreds of thou­sands of dis­place­ments, and an esti­mated €30.6 bil­lion in dam­ages.

The earth­quake was, of course, one of the dis­as­ters of the cen­tury, caus­ing dam­age to fac­to­ries and olive groves,” Tan said. The wounds are being healed with gov­ern­ment mea­sures and an under­stand­ing of cor­po­rate and social respon­si­bil­ity and a total strug­gle. Things are get­ting bet­ter every day.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the sum­mer, Ozpinar said low tem­per­a­tures in November accom­pa­nied by rain in December might increase oil accu­mu­la­tion and improve har­vest fore­casts.


Yusuf Ozpinar harvesting in southwestern Turkey

Due to poor fruit set on trees, olive fruits will ripen faster and will be big­ger,” he said. It is good for table olive pro­duc­tion, but that is the last thing we want when it comes to olive oil.”

We will have to har­vest ear­lier with low olive oil con­tent in order not to see fruit drops and rot­ten olives on the ground,” Ozpinar added. Low tem­per­a­tures in November and rainy days at the begin­ning of December may increase the per­cent­age of oil in olive fruits. That would be the ideal con­di­tion.”

Considering the chal­lenges faced by Turkey’s olive groves, the best con­di­tions for olive growth and oil pro­duc­tion involve mod­er­ate tem­per­a­tures and bal­anced rain­fall,” Alan of NovaVera added. These tem­per­a­tures also affect the under­ground water sup­ply, which is declin­ing rapidly.”

As a result, there isn’t enough water for proper irri­ga­tion, affect­ing the qual­ity of water­ing,” she said. It’s cru­cial to imple­ment effec­tive pest and dis­ease con­trol to pro­tect the olive trees dur­ing this sen­si­tive time and ensure their health and pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

While acknowl­edg­ing that it is still too early to esti­mate the com­ing har­vest, Ozpinar pre­dicts that the national olive oil yield may fin­ish as much as 10 to 15 per­cent below the five-year aver­age of 254,600 tons based on cur­rent con­di­tions and mar­ket behav­ior.

An almost 80 per­cent increase in olive oil buy­ing price of whole­sale buy­ers in the last two months cor­rob­o­rates the expec­ta­tion of a scarce har­vest,” he said.

The 2023/24 crop year may not be as fruit­ful as the pre­vi­ous one, but Tan remains opti­mistic about the future of Turkey’s table olive and olive oil sec­tors.

On the other hand, Turkey is one of the coun­tries least affected by the neg­a­tive global cli­mate change in terms of olive cul­ti­va­tion, which causes our pro­duc­tion quan­tity and qual­ity to show bet­ter devel­op­ment com­pared to other coun­tries,” he said.

In other words, I am hope­ful for this year, and I esti­mate that we can be an impor­tant pro­ducer and exporter coun­try again with the trans­fer of stocks from this year,” Tan added.

With another poor har­vest loom­ing in Spain, Tan believes Turkey will con­tinue gain­ing mar­ket share and increas­ing its olive oil exports.

For the 2023/24 crop year, as long as the pro­por­tional decline in yields con­tin­ues in other coun­tries, espe­cially Spain, as it did last year, it would not be unre­al­is­tic to expect Turkey to increase its pro­duc­tion and exports with its total bal­ance sheet and to take a deeper place in new mar­kets,” he said. With this gen­eral assess­ment, we are hope­ful, and we will wait and see.”

While the impacts of cli­mate change have not been nearly as evi­dent in Turkey as they were last year in the Western Mediterranean basin, pro­duc­ers across the coun­try expressed their con­cerns about the impact of drought and extreme weather on olive farm­ers in the coun­try.

However, like Tan, Alan is also hope­ful. She said olive oil yields could be max­i­mized this year by fol­low­ing cer­tain agri­cul­tural best prac­tices, and the con­tin­ued adop­tion of sus­tain­able farm­ing tech­niques would mit­i­gate future impacts of drought and extreme weather.


Bahar Alan inspecting trees ahead of a previous harvest.

With proper agri­cul­tural prac­tices and care­ful man­age­ment, it is pos­si­ble that the pro­duc­tion could still remain above aver­age despite the chal­lenges faced this year,” she said. Let us empha­size the sig­nif­i­cance of adopt­ing sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural meth­ods in olive groves across Turkey.”

By imple­ment­ing prac­tices that pro­mote envi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion, respon­si­ble water usage, and ecosys­tem preser­va­tion, we can play a cru­cial role in mit­i­gat­ing the impact of cli­mate change,” Alan added. Together, as farm­ers and stew­ards of the land, our col­lec­tive efforts can lead to a more sus­tain­able and resilient olive indus­try for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

Belger believes that drought will con­tinue to be a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge for Western Anatolian pro­duc­ers, with rain falling at all the wrong moments for olive devel­op­ment.

Looking at the long-term impli­ca­tions of the drought, my thought is that the small farm­ers who can­not invest in a water­ing sys­tem will suf­fer the most,” she said. Extensive farm­ers who pro­duce on an indus­trial scale, with large invest­ments in infra­struc­ture, will pre­vail.”

The land­scape for high-qual­ity olive oil pro­duc­ers around the world might be impacted, and pas­sion­ate con­sumers should be ready to pay the true value of an arti­sanal prod­uct,” Belger con­cluded.

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