A record haul of 65 awards has placed Turkey among the top producing countries at the world’s largest olive oil quality contest.
Part of our continuing special coverage of the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
With the highest-ever turnout, Turkish olive oil producers, bottlers and exporters shined bright at the tenth edition of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
Earning a total of 65 awards (34 Gold and 31 Silver) from 116 entries, Turkish entrants far exceeded last year’s tally of 44 awards.
This land is home to a huge variety of olives and we know, to access the hidden features, we need quality production protocols and to strive towards excellence.
Participants from Turkey have increased their number of entries and awards earned in recent years in the competition, significantly improving their ranking among the rest of the contenders year by year.
Birsen Pehlivan, a Turkish olive oil expert, identified the continuous improvement of Turkish producers in olive oil production as the reason behind their strong showing and successes in the world’s largest quality contest.See Also:The Best Olive Oils From Turkey
“Turkish olive oils are attending the competition at rising rates each year, getting awards at a rising rate as well,” Pehlivan told Olive Oil Times.
“The producers in Turkey have quickly discovered how to produce high-quality olive oil in the last five years,” she added. ”This land is home to a huge variety of olives and we know, to access the hidden features, we need quality production protocols and to strive towards excellence.”
Pehlivan runs an online network comprised of most of the country’s olive oil producers, offering them guidance and expert advice. “For the last two years, I have been talking to them [the producers] about the NYIOOC and the importance of this competition,” she said. “I also guided them in their decision to apply.”
“We organize workshops with producers, and I have educated them on quality olive oil production,” Pehlivan added. “I am very proud to be called ‘Teacher Birsen’ by olive oil producers in Turkey.”
The country enjoyed a near-record yield of 227,500 tons of olive oil in the 2021/22 crop year, according to data published by the International Olive Council.
The initial projections of an even higher olive oil yield exceeding 235,000 tons were not realized. However, the year’s production total is the second-highest for the country after the 287,000 tons produced in 2017/18.
The harvesting season was nonetheless far from easy-going for Turkish producers.
In August, dozens of wildfires swept through several olive oil-producing territories in the southwest of the country, destroying thousands of olive trees, and the weather fluctuations certainly took their toll on the country’s olive oil production.
In addition, a prohibition on exports of several agricultural products, including bulk olive oil, imposed by the Turkish government in March on the grounds of stabilizing the domestic market upset olive oil producers and exporters by disrupting their business and revenue.
For Darvari Gida Tarim from Çanakkale in the northwest of the country, the first Turkish producer to win four awards (two Gold and two Silver Awards) at NYIOOC this year, challenges during harvest and production are always part of the job.
“Talking about pressure and difficulties, harvesting is always a time that has a sort of immutable value,” co-owner Cem Erdilek told Olive Oil Times. “It is the very peak of accumulating the critical production mass needed to stay in the market and the critical point in determining the qualities and main characteristics of the olives.”
Overlooking the majestic Dardanelles Strait, Darvari Gida Tarim is currently savoring the glory of the multiple NYIOOC accolades it garnered in this year’s competition.
“Two Gold and two Silver Awards are clearly a source of good old professional pride,” Erdilek said. “We are improving, and NYIOOC is like a sounding board that we are privileged to consider as an extension of our team.”
Darvari has been participating in the world’s most prestigious olive oil competition since 2019, at first without reaching the podium but eventually becoming triumphant in what turned out to be a fail-and-learn process.
“The results coming from NYIOOC [in 2019 and 2020] were something of a disaster,” Erdilek said. “It was precisely these failures that made us listen. It took us two years to understand how to improve, and that brought changes to our production setup and behavior. The feedback we got this year was fantastic.”
Erdilek also said that the next harvesting season is a bit of a mystery. He added, however, that the prospects look promising for the company so far.
“Darvari has already established a reference point with the Byzantium and Ottoman labels,” he said. “Our trees are now in full bloom, it is a beautiful sight, and we feel confident in our professional journey.”
A vast grove of 80,000 olive trees grown with care and a mix of tradition with modern production techniques made returning entrant Gaia Oliva another big winner among Turkish producers at the competition with an admirable tally of four awards from all four of its entries.
“This year [at the NYIOOC] was even better,” owner Tuba Yilmaz told Olive Oil Times. ”In 2021, we won a Gold and a Silver award and this year, our four products received two Gold and two Silver Awards. [The competition] raises our global reputation to new heights.”
Gaia Oliva received a Gold Award for its Premium Memecik Early Harvest monovarietal and another Gold for its Finest Blend from blended olive oil. In addition, two Silver Awards were awarded by the NYIOOC judging panel to the company’s Premium Ayvalik Early Harvest and the Farmer’s Choice blend.
Yilmaz, a female entrepreneur who dreamed of creating a healthy and delicious brand of olive oil for herself and her loved ones, underlined that her company always works toward improving the quality of its products.
She also noted that challenges for the sector continuously emerge, including the lack of qualified employees, and she pinpointed industrial pollution as the most imminent threat to the olive oil sector of Turkey.
“We stand fast in our fight against environmental pollution, but industrial residues are getting closer and closer to the trees we cherish to grow,” she said. “This is a great danger not only for our clean production but also for the whole world. The more we respect Gaia, Mother Nature, the more precious fruits we receive.”
Another awarded Turkish producer, Anafortis from the historical Gallipoli peninsula, won a Gold Award for its namesake extra virgin olive oil, a medium Ayvalik monovarietal with fruity aromas and balanced bitterness targeted to “healthy lifestyles and taste buffs.”
“We are extremely proud of the recognition given by the NYIOOC, the most prestigious olive oil competition,” owner Tolga Erguven told Olive Oil Times.
The company produces its extra virgin olive oil in limited quantities and a single batch, always staying true to its values of sustainability and resource efficiency.
“On each phase of our operations, from the olive gardens all the way to the bottles, we adhere to the sustainability practices our brand stands for and where the value we believe is created for the local community and the environment,” Erguven said.
“This is a long-term investment proposition which will pay off for future generations,” she concluded.