Eftychios Androulakis filtering his olive oil next to storage vats

Sandwiched between nations struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, Greece is a surprising success story. But with stay-at-home orders in place for a month, exporters of the country’s flagship products can hardly escape the impact of COVID-19. Three Greek olive oil companies exemplify the varied effects of social distancing and closures on Greek businesses.

bottles of Greek olive oil on shelves in an Athens airport shop

The only wide-ranging English-language website focused on Greek olive oil news has stopped providing up-to-date information about the Greek olive oil world due to insufficient funding. With 224 original articles, the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website (greekliquidgold.com) reached consumers in 197 countries, especially the USA.

bottles of olive oil on shelves in the Athens airport

Late Friday, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) published a notice in the Federal Register regarding its intention to re-open consideration of the tariffs imposed on European products in connection with the Airbus dispute described in Remove Olive Oil from Prospective Tariff List and in Greeks Respond to New American Tariffs on European Goods.

olive trees, blue sea, Monemvasia in the background

As Nikos Sakellaropoulos says, olives have been cultivated in Laconia, Peloponnese “for thousands of years. Between the Taygetus and Parnonas mountain ranges, you can find olive trees hundreds of years old. Here, our grandfathers passed along the notion that the olive tree is considered sacred and beneficial for everyone and everything around us.”

an olive grove sloping downhill, with the sea in the distant background

“The most beautiful olive tree valley that exists on earth,” suggests Cristina Stribacu, is in Messinia, a regional unit in southwest Peloponnese, Greece. Archaeological finds show that olive oil has been important there for millennia. Now, estimates Vasileios Stournaras, 15 million olive trees cover almost 29% of Messinia and 80% of its cultivated land.

a dark bottle of Gemstone flavored olive oil resting on a white and orange rock, with grass in the background that matches the olive oil's green label

According to the 2019 EVOO World Ranking (EVOOWR), Greece took home 447 awards from 21 international olive oil competitions, earning 34 designations as “EVOOs of the Year.” Ranking third after Italy and Spain in olive oil awards (as in the average amount of olive oil produced), Greece was especially noteworthy for its Koroneiki and flavored olive oils.

a cargo ship in the sea near the coast of Greece

Spanish olive oil and olives are on the list of European goods subject to new American tariffs, but Greek olive oil and olives are not. Many Greeks in this sector are relieved, but what does this really mean for them? There is hope that it will enable Greeks to increase their market share in the USA, but also concern that some tariffs have been imposed.

long rows of olive trees in the Kidonakis Bros.olive groves, viewed from a drone above the groves

Olive oil production estimates for Greece have decreased due to a continuing drought, but quality seems likely to be high this crop year. Vassilis Zampounis recently told Greek Liquid Gold that he now anticipates up to 266 thousand metric tons from Greece. Greek producers’ expectations for olive oil quantity from various areas suggest regional differences.

A man pouring olives from a crate into a hopper in a Greek olive mill

As Chris Kay of Carter Imports commented when signing a North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) petition, he is concerned “that tariffs may be imposed on many European exports, including olive oil, due to a trade dispute between two airplane manufacturers.” Yet “these proposed tariffs [would] do nothing to fix the issues between Boeing and Airbus.”

Evi Prodromou with her husband Yannis (left) and Joseph Profaci at the Greek team’s table

On June 22, the North American Olive Oil Association hosted an Olive Oil Tasting Fair and Fundraiser for the diabetes education and advocacy organization Beyond Type 1 at the Harvard Club of New York. The international collection of extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) tasted by American consumers, buyers, and brokers included seven award winning Greek EVOOs.

Irini Kokolaki with O Olive olive oil bottles and tin

Following in the footsteps of their foremothers while learning about the latest innovations and aiming for the highest quality, a new generation of well educated, enthusiastic Greek women is sharing their family’s high quality extra virgin olive oil with the world. The efforts of Greek women of all ages are inspiring others in the olive oil sector.

Efi Christopoulou and Maria Lazaraki holding blue olive oil tasting glasses

On International Women’s Day, Greek Liquid Gold is honoring the contributions of the women working in the olive oil world. In Greece, thousands of women care for olive trees, harvest olives, work in mills and bottling plants, and market, sell, export, taste, and judge Greek olive oil. Here are a few whose achievements have attracted international attention.

A man emptying a crate of olives into a hopper at a Cretan olive mill

With several estimates for the 2018/19 harvest year’s worldwide olive oil production published recently, a comparison is useful. Expectations range from 3.1 to 3.451 million metric tons. There is agreement on an overall reduction compared to last year, but Spain and Morocco seem to buck the trend, so that a scarcity of olive oil is not anticipated. 

Bottles of Greek olive oil in front of wild daisies

2018 was a year of triumph for hundreds of Greek olive oil companies whose hard work before, during, and after the 2017/18 harvest yielded superb extra virgin olive oils, as international competitions recognized. It was a year of challenges for some Greek olive oil producers, whose hard work left them with disappointing results from the 2018/19 harvest.

an ancient olive tree in an olive grove

The amazing price of 510 euros for a half liter of Greek olive oil captured plenty of attention, but the full story has deeper roots in ancient Greek olive trees. Some of these ancient trees are being preserved and promoted by the Eptastiktos cooperative that donated that precious oil to a Dutch charity auction, and also helps its Cretan community.

Kostas Liris giving his presentation at the FHC Olive Oil Summit

Last month, two Greek olive oil experts were invited to share their knowledge at the Olive Oil Summit of the Food & Hotel China (FHC) 2018 exposition at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. Eleftheria Germanaki and Kostas Liris appreciated this opportunity to reach out to Chinese professionals who work with the growing Chinese olive oil market.

Loutraki Oil Company's Athanasios Katsetos at his desk, with Elea olive oil containers on it

Drawn by an interest in health benefits and sustainable production, professionals from fields like law, medicine, and jewelry making have been turning to Greek olive oil. Loutraki Oil Company’s Athanasios Katsetos and Maria Guadagno Katsetos share with evo3’s Stratis G. Camatsos a dedication to using Greek extra virgin olive oil to help improve the world.

Ioannis Kampouris teaching students in a Greek classroom

Two teachers from Greek olive oil producing families decided to turn their interest in the sustainable production of olives and olive oil into new business ventures. Growing olives in two areas in the eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece, they have found different ways to combine olive oil production with their dedication to teaching.

Chloe Dimitriadis discussing the traditional olive oil production process with tourists

What do a Greek-Canadian graduate of the political science department at McGill University in Montreal and a Greek translator who studied in Corfu and worked in Athens have in common? Olive oil. Both of these educated young women decided to return to the Greek island of Crete where they grew up and dedicate themselves to their family’s olive oil businesses.

Olive oil flowing into a vat, with blue sky and clouds reflected in the oil

Why have professionals such as teachers, lawyers, translators, political scientists, and medical students turned to olive oil production and exports in the last decade? Questioning a number of Greeks who are now working with olive oil, Greek Liquid Gold received a wide variety of responses that sparked a series of articles. This is the first in the series.

people eating and talking at the World Olive Day event in Grecotel's restaurant

The second World Olive Day 2018 event in Crete focused on developing the vast potential for olive oil tourism on this Greek island. Experts presented a wealth of information about olive oil in archaeology, history, the diet, hotels, museums, factories, farms, tastings, and seminars, plus other activities and sites to visit, including monumental olive trees.

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