Terra Creta's plastic baskets full of harvested olives

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.

With the harvest in progress in some parts of Greece and completed in others, Vassilis Zampounis wrote on December 1 that “the average nationwide is much better than last year, both qualitatively and quantitatively.” On December 22, Zampounis added, “the Peloponnese and Central Greece enjoy an excellent year in terms of production, both in quantity and quality. On the contrary, Crete suffers from problems. Estimates for the expected quantity deduct about 10,000 [metric tons] … from the original forecasts.” 

Other reports from Olive News mention some problems in Crete with the anthracnose fungus (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides) and, in Agios Nikolaos, the twig cutter (Rhynchites cribripennis). However, in his December 22 article Zampounis emphasizes that while “the reduced yields and olive fly attacks, as well as the organoleptic problems due to the prolonged drought, are also significant,” we should remember that “the picture is not - and could never be - uniform for the whole island” of Crete.

For example, observing results of the harvest since October 20 in Kolymvari and the wider area of Chania, western Crete, Terra Creta’s Emmanouil Karpadakis reports both an increased quantity and improvements in olive oil quality due to farmers’ use of baskets rather than jute bags to transport their olives to the mill. 

Farther north, Giorgos Karitsiotis explains that the harvest of KASELL S.A. in Monemvasia, Laconia, southeastern Peloponnese (also starting in mid October) seems likely to produce “top quality as in previous years” as well as “quite large quantities.” KASELL did have some problems with drought, but since 90% of their olive groves are irrigated, that was successfully managed.

A late November report from Agrocapital indicated a very good year, with low acidity olive oil, in Messinia, southwestern Peloponnese, in spite of the drought there. Evgenia Andriopoulou’s experience seems to confirm this. She explains that Makaria Terra harvested their olives in Messinia from November 20 to December 20. Thanks to generally good weather, no problems with diseases or insects, and a “focus on careful, intelligent cultivation,” they find their olive oil quality “perfect.” Less rain than usual did reduce the quantity somewhat, but not excessively.

According to Maria and Athanasios Katsetos, Loutraki Oil Company, producer of Elea extra virgin olive oil, began harvesting in Sparta and Corinth (northern and southern Peloponnese) on November 11. Analyses to date “indicate excellent results,” the “best in the last three years,” with increased quantity compared to the past two years. A hail storm destroyed 15% of their olives in Sparta, but thanks to their efforts to harvest earlier than in the past—which they recommend to other producers--they succeeded in avoiding worse damage from the “unexpected weather conditions” that “occur ever more often nowadays.”

Ellie Tragakes of Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises (HAE) reveals that “the Kolovi olive variety of Lesvos ripens later than most other varieties,” so they tend to begin their harvest around the end of October or beginning of November. The “quality appears to be excellent” this year, although it is hard to say what the quantity will be at this point—possibly 30% more than last year. There were minor problems with drought and the olive fly on Lesvos, but these were not as bad as last year, and HAE’s new methods for combatting the olive fly show “encouraging results so far.”

Evi Psounou Prodromou reports that Yanni’s Olive Grove harvested their Chalkidiki olives from September 20 to November 30 in northeastern Greece, finishing their early harvest a month later than usual because they “had almost double olives on the trees, but in smaller sizes,” meaning fewer table olives, but more olive oil. Prodromou tells of “excellent” quality extra virgin olive oil, and “twice as much as an average year,” thanks to no problems at all and their highly successful work as a model pilot company for olive tree cultivation with the innovative Gaia Sense program focused on intelligent agriculture.

Greek producers’ special efforts often enable them to overcome challenging conditions. While there were some problems with drought and pests in Greece this year, both the overall picture from the experienced editor of OliveNews.gr, Vassilis Zampounis, and this sampling of producers from around the country suggest that plenty of high quality Greek extra virgin olive oil should be available once again this year.

Thanks to Terra Creta for the photo of their olives in crates at the top of this page, and thanks to Yanni’s Olive Grove for the photo of the harvester that accompanies the introduction to this article.

For more about other olive oil producing countries, see 2017/18 Worldwide Olive Oil Production Estimates Compared.

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