Meet the Montenegrin Producer Who Once Charmed a Royal Couple

An extra virgin olive oil made from the olives of a millenary tree gifted in a hand-crafted olive wood container delighted the Queen Consort-to-be and her husband.
Healthy fruits for premium olive oil
By Nedjeljko Jusup
Sep. 27, 2022 13:00 UTC

Olive grow­ers on the Montenegrin coast and far­ther inland in Plantaže, near Podgorica, the cap­i­tal, expect a good har­vest.

The crop is solid. The fruits are healthy,” said Fatmir Sadik from Ulcinj, one of the region’s most well-known olive grow­ers.

The best adver­tise­ment for Montenegrin olive grow­ing is our tra­di­tion.- Fatmir Sadik, Montenegrin olive oil pro­ducer

Sadik sells his oil under the Olcinium brand, which loosely trans­lates to place of oil.” Olcinium is also the his­tor­i­cal name for Ulcinj, which has a long olive-grow­ing tra­di­tion.

Since the 2nd cen­tury, dur­ing the Roman Empire, the main eco­nomic dri­vers here have been ship­ping and olive grow­ing,” Sadik said. People worked at sea for six months and in the olive groves for the other six.”

See Also:One Year After a Devastating Fire in Montenegro, Farmers Continue to Rebuild

All of this is evi­denced by the olive trees, the old­est of which in Mirovica near Bar is 2,247 years old. Furthermore, 120,000 of the 190,000 olive trees in Ulcinj are between 200 and 2,000 years old.
Most of them are in the scenic Valdanos Bay, where Sadik has 700 trees in two groves, mainly of the native Žutica vari­ety.

My old­est is 1,150 years old,” he said. The com­bi­na­tion of age and qual­ity has pre­sented Sadik with oppor­tu­ni­ties to gift his oils to for­eign dig­ni­taries, includ­ing King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, who vis­ited Montenegro in 2016.

In the his­toric town of Cetinje, local pro­duc­ers pre­pared an exhi­bi­tion of tra­di­tional Montenegrin food for the royal cou­ple. Among them are two extra vir­gin olive oils, one made from the olives of the mil­lenary tree in Mirovica and the other from Sadik’s groves in Valdanos Bay.

It was an event to remem­ber,” Sadik said of the then Prince of Wales’s visit to his stand. Although pro­to­col did not call for it, he added that Charles extended his hand and con­grat­u­lated him after they tasted the oil.

Sadik took the oppor­tu­nity and pre­sented the royal cou­ple with two bot­tles of olive oil from his old­est tree packed in a box that he made from olive wood.

Camilla later declared that she had never tasted bet­ter olive oil, which was reported by many inter­na­tional media out­lets. The head­line appeared on the front page of the most-read Montenegrin news mag­a­zine: Duchess Camilla was delighted by Montenegrin oil.”


Prince Charles tasted the oil and congratulated Fatmir in 2016

The exhibitors also received a hand­writ­ten thank you note from the royal cou­ple. In the note, Sadik said the cou­ple praised the olive oil they received as a gift.

He has also sold his olive oils pack­aged in hand­crafted boxes to a prince of the United Arab Emirates, who owns a local port, and other for­eign dig­ni­taries vis­it­ing their respec­tive embassies in the cap­i­tal.

The best adver­tise­ment for Montenegrin olive grow­ing is our tra­di­tion,” Sadik said. Another advan­tage is that, unlike most other olive-grow­ing coun­tries, we did not use chem­i­cal pro­tec­tive agents in cul­ti­va­tion.”

We have the con­di­tions for pro­duc­ing top-qual­ity oils, which would achieve high prices with suit­able pack­ages,” he added.

Sadik respects tra­di­tion on his farm but also uses the lat­est tech­nolo­gies and best prac­tices while har­vest­ing, trans­form­ing, stor­ing, pack­ag­ing and mar­ket­ing his olive oil.

In the last 10 years, other olive grow­ers have accepted the new, but there are still those who work in the old way,” he said. They are late with the har­vest. They wait for the fruits to fall to the ground by them­selves. They fer­ment so that the oils from such olives have no healthy prop­er­ties. Producing oils from such olives is the same as mak­ing juice from rot­ten apples.”


Sadik plans to start this year’s har­vest on October 1, with the help of fam­ily and friends. Although, he will also hire sea­sonal work­ers for the job.

All his olive trees are har­vested by hand and with shak­ers. They start early in the morn­ing and end no later than 1:00 PM. By then, tem­per­a­tures often exceed 20 ºC, and Sadik’s goal is to avoid oxi­da­tion.

The har­vested olives are col­lected in nets and placed into crates. They are then trans­ported by vehi­cle and imme­di­ately trans­formed into the fam­ily mill, the first of its kind in Ulcinj. The state-of-the-art mill, known as Oliomio, has a capac­ity of 250 kilo­grams of olives per hour.

Transformation occurs in two stages using a cen­trifuge at a max­i­mum tem­per­a­ture of 27 ºC. Compost and water go to one com­part­ment, and oil to the other.

Sadik said this process guar­an­tees high-qual­ity oil if the olives are picked at the right time and milled on the same day.

From the moment of har­vest­ing to trans­for­ma­tion, no more than four hours should pass,” he said. Otherwise, oxi­da­tion and the increase of free fatty acids occur, and the oil begins los­ing qual­ity.”

From this year’s har­vest of 700 olive trees, Sadik expects 2.5 to 3 tons of extra vir­gin olive oil. According to the International Olive Council, Montenegro pro­duces about 500 tons of olive oil each year.


Former International Olive Council executive director Jean-Louis Barjol (right) visiting the farm

Sadik also buys olives from other grow­ers, but on the con­di­tion that he deter­mines the time and method of har­vest­ing. I don’t accept worms and those picked up from the ground,” he said.

In addi­tion to timely har­vest­ing and pro­cess­ing, he said it is cru­cial that the olive oil is stored in suit­able con­tain­ers made of dark glass or stain­less steel, with­out con­tact with oxy­gen and light, at a tem­per­a­ture of 14 ºC to 18 ºC.

His Olcinium extra vir­gin olive oil has been awarded mul­ti­ple times at national and inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions. With oil from this year’s har­vest, he intends to send sam­ples to the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion.

It’s a big chal­lenge for me,” Sadik said. If my oil wins an award there, among the best in the world, it will be the best con­fir­ma­tion of qual­ity. A dream come true.”

In addi­tion to pro­duc­ing olive oil, Sadik also tried his hand at seedling pro­duc­tion. With part­ners from Albania and Greece, he pro­duced 5,000 Žutica seedlings in the first year and 10,000 in the sec­ond and third years.

However, he gave up on this effort as Montenegrin grow­ers over­whelm­ingly opted to plant Italian vari­eties such as Leccino and Pendolino and Spanish vari­eties such as Arbequina.

Everyone wants a crop overnight, and time will tell whether domes­tic or for­eign vari­eties are bet­ter for Montenegrin con­di­tions,” he said.

Sadik con­tin­ued to work with olive wood, though, craft­ing boxes, bowls, sou­venirs and other objects for every­day use.

Just like the fruit, the olive tree is unique,” he said. After all, Michelangelo said that an olive tree is a work of art in itself.

Sadik was encour­aged to start work­ing with olive wood by an elderly cou­ple from Vodnjan, Croatia, who made objects from olive wood.

On his return to Montenegro, he also began to shape the olive tree, even­tu­ally achiev­ing a desir­able skill.

It is both my love and my job,” he said. Sadik also hired car­pen­ters who worked accord­ing to his ideas.

Together with a well-known European artist, Sadik will make bot­tles from ter­ra­cotta and porce­lain, which is processed at a tem­per­a­ture of 1,400 ºC. Those bot­tles will con­tain a lim­ited series of oil from his old­est olives and will be sold at very high prices. Sadik is con­vinced that he will suc­ceed this time as well.

Olive grow­ers from Montenegro are not com­pet­i­tive in terms of quan­tity,” he said. But we can export our oils from autochtho­nous olives, pro­vided they are of the high­est qual­ity, in orig­i­nal pack­ages through tourism at prices higher than those achieved in clas­sic exports.”

The main chal­lenge fac­ing Montenegrin pro­duc­ers, accord­ing to Sadik, is cli­mate change. We can­not influ­ence cli­mate change, but we can adapt to it,” he said.

Despite the chal­lenges a warmer and drier cli­mate will have on Montenegro, Sadik believes that Montenegro can plant 1 mil­lion olive trees in the com­ing years, triple the cur­rent amount in the coun­try. Many of these trees will be planted around his groves in Ulcinj.


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