Turkish Producers Reach New Heights in World Competition

A record haul of 65 awards has placed Turkey among the top producing countries at the world’s largest olive oil quality contest.

Harvest at Gaia Oliva
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Jun. 10, 2022 14:14 UTC
Harvest at Gaia Oliva

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.- Birsen Pehlivan, Turkish olive oil expert and con­sul­tant

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.


The harvest at Davari Gida Tarim

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.


Petru Prundeanu and Cem Erdilek of Davari

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.”


Photo: Gaia Oliva

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.

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