Children onstage in front of an audience, with some dancing around a giant olive

This year’s first World Olive Day event in Crete offered a glimpse of some Cretan olive oil sector activities, successes, and concerns. Scientists gave advice on olive oil extraction, trading, and olive mill waste management and reviewed developments in olive oil production and exports, then children presented a play, and olive mills received awards.

Audience members tasting olive oil at a seminar in Chania, Crete

A recent event hosted by the Chania Chamber of Commerce and Industry on "International Olive Oil Competitions: The Road to Distinction" revealed that the olive oil of the prefecture of Chania continues its upward course, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Drawing more than 65 participants, the event sparked the interest of many olive oil producers.

olive leaves and olives glowing in the evening light

The first estimates of the amount of olive oil to be produced by the major olive oil producing nations in the next crop year (October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018) were published recently. While there is naturally some disagreement, and it is early to make predictions, a significant increase over this year’s olive oil production levels seems likely.

closeup of green olives hanging on a tree, with other olive trees in the background

Although recent news headlines warn of soaring olive oil prices, these increases are neither universal nor uniform. The world has seen lower olive oil production levels this decade, and excellent extra virgin olive oil is still available at prices that are more than reasonable given the work put into creating its high quality and striking health benefits.

Alexandra Devarenne in front of the Acropolis in Athens

A good Greek extra virgin olive oil is “an amazing value for the quality of the product; it’s really well priced in the American market,” says American olive oil expert Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne. With a “great fondness for Greece” and an interest in Greek culture, Devarenne argues that “Greek olive oil hasn’t made the mark it deserves in the US market.”

Part of a clear bottle of olive oil on a wooden table with sea and land view in the background

From New Orleans to Chicago, from Washington to London, headlines trumpet,  “We’re about to suffer a worldwide olive oil shortage,” and “Olive Oil Prices Are Going Through the Roof”! Is it really that bad? Yes, olive oil production is down, demand and prices are up, but the numbers and supply in Greece and Spain suggest there is really no need to panic.

olives in a large crate on a forklift outside the mill of Yanni's Olive Grove

A number of Greek extra virgin olive oils were recently recognized as some of the most highly awarded olive oils in the world, based on their success in international olive oil competitions. Greek olive oil producers consider these distinctions an affirmation of their hard work, attention to detail, and ceaseless efforts to create excellent products.

snowy trees and hills in Crete

“The unusual weather--snow, ice, and very low temperatures--affected almost all the major olive-oil producing areas” in Greece, according to the directors of the major Greek olive oil industry organizations, Panayiotis Karantonis (ESVITE) and George Economou (SEVITEL). Most importantly, they add, this weather hit after the olive harvest was mainly finished.

conveyor belts at Terra Creta's olive unloading area outside its olive mill

On November 24, Fotis Sousalis, General Manager of Terra Creta olive oil company in Crete, Greece, was invited to make a presentation at the European Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) Week celebration in Brussels. The event was hosted by the European Economic & Social Committee to highlight the key role SMEs play in Europe’s food and drink sector.

Makaria Terra's fresh olive oil at the mill

Last June, the Olympia Health and Nutrition Awards initiated a new trend in olive oil competitions: a focus on health benefits. In 2017, the Olympia Awards will continue, the Aristoleo Awards will expand, a new competition will debut in Malaga, Spain, and the London Competition will lead mainstream competitions into this new health-conscious territory.

Grecotel representatives accepting an award from the Mayor of Rethymno

On November 29, World Olive Day celebrations continued in Crete with a screening of the documentary "Cretan Olive Oil: The Secret of Longevity," remarks by local dignitaries, a lecture about the cooperation between the olive oil sector and tourism in Crete, a theatrical presentation by schoolchildren, and awards for hotels that promote Cretan olive oil.

fresh green olives held in two cupped hands

George Economou, director of SEVITEL, and Panayiotis Karantonis, director of ESVITE (the two main Greek olive oil industry organizations) expect Greece to produce about 200,000 metric tons of olive oil this year, a low amount “due to adverse weather conditions and the presence of diseases” that also caused problems with olive oil quality “in some areas.”

people sorting olives in nets under olive trees

Greek olive oil production is expected to fall to 200,000 metric tons or less for the 2016/17 crop year, with quality ranging from poor to excellent. Olive oil producers from different parts of Greece offer varying perspectives based on the situation in their area. Some are more optimistic about this crop year’s production level and quality than others.

People sitting at tables eating olive oil snacks on World Olive Day

On November 26, at an informative, celebratory event honoring World Olive Day at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania in Crete, Greece, the Association of Cretan Olive Municipalities (ACOM or SEDIK) presented awards to Cretan olive mills for their methods of olive mill operation, olive oil extraction, bottling, and olive oil distribution.

Dr. Prokopios Magiatis & Dr. Eleni Melliou with Olea Health capsules

Made with Greek olive oil, the new Olea Health olive oil softgel capsule, “the densest polyphenol capsule in the world” according to its website, entered the Greek market in September. Its advocates believe this low-calorie product can offer a high concentration of the olive oil polyphenols that scientific studies suggest have numerous health benefits.

audience members watching an award ceremony on World Olive Day in Chania

The International Olive Council (IOC) decreed November 26 World Olive Day, for “seminars, trade fairs, or symposiums showcasing the relationship between olive products and health, olive growing and the environment, the history of olive growing, the olive economy, etc.” in IOC member countries. Various olive and olive oil events were planned in Greece.

Nutricreta olive oil tins in various sizes

Twenty-one Greek extra virgin olive oils and two Greek flavored olive oils received Great Taste Awards in the United Kingdom this year. According to its website, the Great Taste Awards have been called “the ‘Oscars’ of the food world and the ‘epicurean equivalent of the Booker prize.’” Only 35% of the 10,000 products entered were awarded one or more stars.

Aristotelis Azariadis with small olive trees in the greenhouse

Aristotelis Azariadis is in the midst of an investigation of the effect of salinity and drought stress on four different olive cultivars, aiming to determine whether olive trees can be grown where we think they can’t survive. This is good to know in such places as Crete and North Africa, given a Cretan tradition of watering olive trees with sea water.

Emmanouil Karpadakis meeting with two Korean businesspeople

Emmanouil Karpadakis, marketing manager and olive oil exporter at Terra Creta in Crete, recently returned from his second trip to South Korea. This time, he was participating in the EU-GATEWAY mission to promote EU organic products in Korea. Terra Creta was one of five Greek enterprises selected to participate in this expedition of 50 European companies.

forklift moving bags of olives into olive mill

Even careful research yields a range of estimates, but a summary of the predictions of several individuals and organizations with substantial experience in the olive oil industry suggests that worldwide olive oil production is not expected to decrease more than 7 to 11% in comparison to last year, and major price increases are not anticipated.

Eleones olive picker in a tree

The strange combination of fewer table olives and lower prices for them in Halkidiki, northern Greece may mean more olive oil will be produced in that area, while farther south in mainland Greece there is some debate over expectations for olive oil prices based on early harvest Athinolia extra virgin olive oil sales in Lakonia, Peloponnese.

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