Turkey's Production Plummets After Last Year's Record Harvest

Adverse weather, a poor fruit set and an ‘off-year’ have led to a meager yield.

By Costas Vasilopoulos
Feb. 29, 2024 22:15 UTC
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With the ini­tial fore­casts of a weak har­vest for the 2023/24 crop year con­firmed,
Turkey is yet another Mediterranean pro­ducer to expe­ri­ence a dras­ti­cally reduced olive oil yield this sea­son.

The offi­cial har­vest esti­mate released by the Turkish Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK) in September pre­dicted Turkey’s national olive oil pro­duc­tion would reach a mere 180,000 tons this crop year.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also revised Turkey’s pro­duc­tion total to 190,000 tons from an ini­tial esti­mate of 280,000 tons due to unfa­vor­able cli­matic con­di­tions, which impacted pro­duc­tion.

In the pre­vi­ous 2022/23 crop year, Turkish pro­duc­ers enjoyed a record yield of 421,000 tons of olive oil. However, erratic weather last spring, which extended win­ter-like con­di­tions in many of the country’s olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions, dis­rupted the fruit set­ting of olive trees.

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

This, com­bined with an off-year’ in the trees’ nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle, sig­nif­i­cantly reduced pro­duc­tion.

It is in the genet­ics of the olive tree that there will be a much lower pro­duc­tion after such a year,” said Mustafa Tan, the UZZK pres­i­dent, com­ment­ing on the country’s decreased crop. Compared to last year, the yield per tree decreased by 55.7 per­cent to 7.9 kilo­grams [of olive oil].”

We expect the esti­mated yield of olive oil to be 179,300 tons and 442,000 tons of table olives in this pro­duc­tion sea­son,” Tan added. This is a fig­ure that can cover both our exports and our con­sump­tion in the domes­tic mar­ket.”

From Ayvalik, a well-known olive oil-pro­duc­ing region on the north­west­ern Aegean coast, Mustafa Kürlek of Köklü Zeytincilik said the country’s olive oil pro­duc­tion fared lower than the offi­cial esti­mates.

For the 2023/24 sea­son, the Turkish National Olive Oil Assembly esti­mated the over­all out­put at 180,000 tons, whereas the actual out­put remained at 120,000 tons,” Kürlek told Olive Oil Times.

However, he noted that the pre­vi­ous har­vest’s car­ry­over stock has ade­quately sup­ple­mented this year’s lower yield.

A quan­tity of 100,000 tons of olive oil from the 2022/23 sea­son has been added to the 2023/24 over­all out­put,” he said. The quan­tity of olive oil avail­able in Turkey, espe­cially the inter­na­tion­ally accepted extra vir­gin olive oil, is suf­fi­cient.”

Kürlek added that the three-month export ban imposed on bulk olive oil in August harmed Turkish exporters and inter­na­tional mar­kets.

The export pro­hi­bi­tion, ini­tially sched­uled to last until last November, has been extended indef­i­nitely in Turkey over con­cerns about short­ages in the domes­tic mar­ket.

I assume that there is a 25 per­cent prob­a­bil­ity that the ban will be lifted in March, but I think this is more likely to hap­pen next September,” Kürlek added.

As in other pro­duc­ing coun­tries, a char­ac­ter­is­tic of this har­vest sea­son in Turkey is the con­trast between declin­ing yields and increased olive oil prices in the main pro­duc­ing regions.

In Mut, a dis­trict in the Mersin province on Turkey’s south­ern coast and home to about 21 mills, pro­duc­tion fell sharply to 5,000 tons of olive oil from around 30,000 tons last year. However, the high olive oil prices have com­pen­sated local farm­ers for the reduced crop.

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The yield was lower com­pared to last year,” said Muharrem Yılmaz of the local cham­ber of agri­cul­ture. The rea­son for this is that the weather was a lit­tle dry com­pared to last year. The trees could not be watered suf­fi­ciently; in other words, it was a dry year.”

“[A liter of] olive oil, which went for 80 lira (€2.38) to 100 lira (€2.97) last year, is sold for 250 lira (€7.43) to 350 lira (€10.40) this year,” he added. This has made pro­duc­ers smile, even though pro­duc­tion was small.”

However, the pat­tern of reduced yields is not uni­form across the coun­try, with some Turkish pro­duc­ers able to repeat last year’s pro­duc­tion vol­umes, albeit with a reduced qual­ity.

As expected, the sea­son was not spec­tac­u­lar,” said the own­ers of Olive811, who grow 15,000 olive trees of the Domat and Ayvalik vari­eties in the north­west­ern region of Çanakkale. Nevertheless, the har­vest was close to last year’s quan­tity. Having a high num­ber of trees tends to lower the effect of sea­son­al­ity.”

The qual­ity of olive oil is slightly lower than last year,” they added. We always had 0.2 to 0.4 per­cent max­i­mum acid­ity, and this year, we got up to 0.4 to 0.6 per­cent. The over­all qual­ity of olive oil in the region was def­i­nitely worse, hardly graded as extra vir­gin.”

Meanwhile, and as much as the high prices have ben­e­fit­ted pro­duc­ers, some con­sumers in Turkey are in dire straits when buy­ing olive oil.

Although we live among olive trees here, we can­not bring olive oil to our tables,” said Mehmet Kaygi, a retiree liv­ing in Soma in the Manisa province, one of the country’s main olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions. Even in Soma, olive oil now costs 300 lira (€8.88). We have now started using sun­flower oil.”

According to Can Candeger, a man­ag­ing part­ner at Artem Oliva, one of Turkey’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ing and export­ing com­pa­nies, the reduced 2023/24 yield, com­bined with domes­tic and exter­nal fac­tors, is behind the rise of olive oil prices in Turkey.

The 2023/24 sea­son wit­nessed a decrease in over­all olive oil pro­duc­tion com­pared to pre­vi­ous years, exac­er­bat­ing the mar­ket’s tight­ness,” Candeger told Olive Oil Times.

The low yields, infla­tion and pres­sured exchange rates of the Turkish lira have con­tributed to the upward trend in olive oil prices in Turkey,” he added. The ris­ing prices in Spain also have a rip­ple effect, push­ing up Turkish olive oil prices.”

Candeger was also cau­tiously opti­mistic about the next 2024/25 crop year, point­ing out that safer con­clu­sions will be drawn in early sum­mer.

We have higher expec­ta­tions about the upcom­ing 2024/25 sea­son com­pared to the cur­rent one,” he said. However, it will not be clear until next June how the new sea­son will unfold. Around that time, the blos­som­ing of the olive trees in the coun­try will pro­vide a pre­lim­i­nary pro­jec­tion about the poten­tial yield per­for­mance.”



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