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.

ELAWON's 50 milliliter spray perfume bottle containing olive oil

This year, a Greek law requires restaurants to replace the refillable olive oil containers on their tables with sealed, non-refillable or disposable, properly labeled bottles. Offering various bottles to restaurants, Greek olive oil companies are ready to showcase the high quality and health benefits of appropriately packaged Greek extra virgin olive oil.

Four small bottles of Nature Blessed olive oil and flavored olive oil on a table

Since January 1, a new law in Greece has mandated that the olive oil on restaurant tables be served in sealed, non-refillable or disposable, properly labeled bottles instead of the refillable glass containers commonly used in the past. Greek olive oil industry experts hail this change as beneficial for both consumers and the Greek olive oil world.

olives on branches, against blue sky

Given varying estimates for worldwide olive oil production in the last few months, it is useful to compare predictions from respected sources. The consensus is that production will increase in the 2017/18 harvest year. Although the leading producer, Spain, will offer less olive oil, greater output from other countries will more than compensate for that. 

A harvester picking olives by hand in Yanni's Olive Grove, Chaldiki, northern Greece

Predictions for Greek olive oil production in the 2017/18 crop year range from 270,000 to 300,000 metric tons, with the higher number indicating a 54% increase over last year. Greek specialists and olive oil companies who offer their perspectives from various parts of the country provide more details about expectations for this year’s Greek olive oil.

Vasilis Pyrgiotis standing next to International Olive Council symbols, a globe with an olive branch under a sculpture of a bird

Vasilis Pyrgiotis, the new chairperson of the Copa and Cogeca Working Party on Olive Oil and Table Olives, recently discussed the Greek and European olive sector with Greek Liquid Gold, emphasizing the importance of pan-European cooperation and smart farming, as well as promotional campaigns—for example using branded olive oil bottles on restaurant tables.

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.

Links to Recent News Articles