Storms in Greece Flood Olive Groves, Damage Trees

Heavy rain and hailstorms swept across Greece, damaging olive trees ahead of the upcoming harvest and raising concerns over the spread of disease.
Palaia Epidavros on the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Sep. 18, 2023 15:34 UTC

In Greece, unusu­ally wet weather caused by the Mediterranean Storm Daniel has damp­ened the expec­ta­tions of olive and olive oil pro­duc­ers in the affected areas ahead of the upcom­ing olive har­vest.

For three days, a wave of cat­a­clysmic rain and squalls swept the coun­try from the north­west to the south­east, even­tu­ally los­ing its edge in the Aegean Sea.

It is a huge cat­a­stro­phe. Prices of olive oil are high, and we were expect­ing a robust olive har­vest in our area this sea­son. But the storm has left the local pro­duc­ers in despair.- Alexis Katsanis, exec­u­tive, Louvro

Large swathes of the Thessaly Plain in cen­tral Greece, the most exten­sive cul­ti­vated flat­land in the coun­try chiefly reserved for grow­ing wheat and cot­ton, went under­wa­ter.

Several vil­lages in the area were sub­merged, and Volos, a port city of 150,000 peo­ple, was flooded.

See Also:No Respite in Greece as Wildfires Incinerate Ancient Olive Groves in Makri

The death toll from the storm has risen to 16, with fears that the num­ber will increase fur­ther as the waters recede in the com­ing days.

On its way, Daniel ham­mered sev­eral olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions of the coun­try, flood­ing olive groves and dam­ag­ing olive trees and dru­pes.

In west­ern Peloponnese, a hail­storm swept through the olive groves near the con­tem­po­rary town of Ancient Olympia, knock­ing olive fruits to the ground.

The rain and the hail­storm lasted for about an hour,” said Alexis Katsanis, the head of the local com­mu­nity of Louvro. Seventy per­cent [of the olives] fell to the ground, and the 30 per­cent that remained on the trees have been dam­aged by the hail­stones and will even­tu­ally rot.”

It is a huge cat­a­stro­phe,” he added. Prices of olive oil are high, and we were expect­ing a robust olive har­vest in our area this sea­son. But the storm has left the local pro­duc­ers in despair.”

Local award-win­ning pro­ducer Alexis Karabelas of AMG Karabelas said the storm mainly affected the olive trees in the higher areas of the region, also poten­tially threat­en­ing the har­vest of the fol­low­ing crop year.

These areas face almost com­plete destruc­tion,” Karabelas told Olive Oil Times. Olive grow­ers must apply cop­per-based fungi­cides and remove most of the wounded tree branches. Otherwise, the fruition of the olive trees in the next 2024/25 crop year may be in peril.”

Meanwhile, experts have warned of a pos­si­ble out­break of olive dis­ease due to the increased rain­fall across much of Greece.

We have had a lot of rain in the coun­try,” said Antonis Paraskevopoulos of the agri­cul­tural depart­ment of Trifylia in the Peloponnese. Our area received more than 50 mil­lime­ters of water. It has helped olive oil pro­duc­tion by water­ing [the trees], but the humid­ity and rel­a­tively low tem­per­a­tures require atten­tion for olive fruit fly and gloeospo­rium infes­ta­tions.”

Greece is antic­i­pat­ing a mod­est olive oil yield this crop year pri­mar­ily due to low fruition lev­els, with the over­all pro­duc­tion fore­casted at around 200,000 tons.

The region of Magnesia in cen­tral Greece was inun­dated by the stormy weather, caus­ing dis­tress to local olive oil pro­duc­ers.

The phe­nom­e­non was very intense in our area, with heavy rain and hail,” mem­bers of the Pelion agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion from the vil­lage of Ano Lechona told Olive Oil Times. Our homes and prop­er­ties were flooded, and so were our olive groves. It is impos­si­ble to assess the dam­age caused to our olive trees at the moment.”


They also said the entire region is expected to yield less olive oil this sea­son than in boun­ti­ful crop years when pro­duc­tion exceeded 7,000 tons.

Storm Daniel also impacted Evia island, the coun­try’s sec­ond-largest island, just a few kilo­me­ters off the main­land in the Aegean Sea.

The north­ern part of the island has been scarred by the wild­fire of August 2021, with local grow­ers strug­gling to breathe new life into their olive groves.

In the vil­lage of Rovies, an area well-known for its exten­sive groves of table olive vari­eties, the com­bined effect of fire and water threat­ened the exis­tence of the local olive asso­ci­a­tion.

After an hour of tor­ren­tial rain, the nearby river burst its banks and flooded the whole area,” Nicos Vallis, the head of the asso­ci­a­tion, told Olive Oil Times. The fire of 2021 has turned much of the area into a tree­less land­scape with less capac­ity to absorb water. If the rain had con­tin­ued for another hour, our olive pack­ag­ing plant and the rest of our facil­i­ties would have swamped.”

Vallis added that the olive trees in Rovies, mainly of the Konservolia table vari­ety, were unharmed since no hail hit the area. He noted, how­ever, that local pro­duc­ers still bear the brunt of the 2021 wild­fire.

Many olive pro­duc­ers in Rovies are in the process of mak­ing their olive trees pro­duc­tive again after the destruc­tive fire two years ago, mostly by nur­tur­ing the trees that were not destroyed by the flames,” he said. I am try­ing to con­vert my trees that escaped the fire into wild olive trees for a dif­fer­ent kind of olive oil.”

Scientists con­sider extreme weather events more likely to occur due to anthro­pogenic cli­mate change-related fluc­tu­a­tions in tem­per­a­ture and humid­ity.

“[Humans] are over­heat­ing the atmos­phere glob­ally, and the ocean responds by accu­mu­lat­ing the heat and return­ing it to the atmos­phere as water vapor,” Christos Zerefos, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of geol­ogy and sci­en­tific advi­sor to the Greek gov­ern­ment, told Athens News Agency. If there’s a lot of water vapor and heat in the sea, it can cre­ate a trop­i­cal storm, like Storm Daniel.”

However, this storm was very extreme,” he said, adding that Greece is unlikely to expe­ri­ence such cat­a­strophic weather again soon. The heat­wave of this sum­mer and storm Daniel are so rare that they will not occur again for 300 to 400 years.”


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