two harvesters working with crates of large green Chalkidiki olives in Yanni's Olive Grove

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.

As Zampounis wrote on Olivenews.gr last month, “the continuous drought of the past three months has changed the expectations of the forecasted olive oil production in Greece,” reducing initial estimations, which had called for 300 thousand metric tons.

Zampounis added, “Similar developments appear in Spain, where the forecasted production has dropped from 1.35 million tons to 1.0 – 1.1 million tons. Expectations, however, remain high for Tunisia (300 – 330 th. tons), Italy (290 – 310 th. tons), Turkey (170 – 180 th. tons), Portugal (120 – 140 th. tons) and Syria (90 – 100 th. tons). Therefore, in contrast to last year, the general picture for 2019/20 can be described by balance. The significantly reduced Spanish production will be offset by its high reserves of about 700 th. tons, along with the generous productions of other Mediterranean countries.”

Zampounis provides a “detailed forecast for the Greek production of olive oil” by area which can be viewed on Olivenews.gr. He recently informed Greek Liquid Gold that he continues to believe his estimates remain accurate, “but it is more probable to reach the upper forecast of 266 [thousand metric tons of olive oil] than the lower of 212. Rainfalls are vital as soon as possible.”

In any case, according to Zampounis, “what should be emphasized … is the spectacular improvement in quality compared to 2018/19. The coming year 2019/20 has been favored by climatic conditions, especially during last winter, with cold weather and bountiful rains. Also, the catastrophic olive flies’ attacks during the summer of 2018 – which cost more than € 200 million – was followed by 2019's timely organization and good weather conditions that have minimized relevant impacts.”

Also forecasting high quality, a number of Greek olive oil company representatives and producers shared their personal perspectives from different parts of Greece. For example, Lemonia Damianaki of Nature Blessed predicted a better crop than last year in western and central Macedonia and Mount Pelion. Vassiliki Tsilivarakou of MFSA / Olea Groves expects a good harvest with “the best quality” for the Manaki and Koreneiki olives for OleaJuice olive oil from Peloponnese.

Ioannis Kampouris’s reports on several areas where E-La-Won olive groves are located typify the variations in olive oil production within Greece. In Corinth, “production seems reduced by 30% for this year; in Lakonia, we expect increased production by 40% compared to last year; in Ilia [Elis], production will be the same as last year;” in Lamia, Fthiotida, a 50% reduction is anticipated. Kampouris sees a similar trend in comparison to the average in recent years: increased olive oil production in the southern Peloponnese and 50% less in northern Peloponnese and Lamia. For those using the best practices for olive cultivation, harvest, production, and bottling in these areas, where many begin to harvest in early to mid November, Kampouris expects excellent olive oil with low acidity.

Ioannis Kampouris harvesting green olives with a rake

An even more optimistic Maria Katsetos of Loutraki Oil Company offered a different impression of the quantity of olive oil expected from Corinth and Lakonia. Katsetos informed Greek Liquid Gold that she and her team expect “at least a 90% increase” compared to both last year and recent years in their own olive groves in those areas, “God willing, and providing that between now and December we do not experience any fierce weather conditions.” She and her team anticipate “excellent quality, as the weather conditions have been very favorable this year thus far,” with no problems to date. The harvest tends to start in mid October in Corinth, and as late as December for some in Lakonia.
 
Katerina Bougatsou of Stalia told Greek Liquid Gold she estimates her area will have 10-20% more olive oil than last year, an average quantity for the area of Gargalianoi, Messinia, Peloponnese, with good quality. Giovanni Bianchi of Argali also expects 20% more than last year for that area, and very good quality fruit. Aside from a drought, which many overcame with some watering, there were few problems. The harvest will begin in mid to late October, with most harvesting in November and December.

Mostly green olives on a net on the ground, with olive trees in the background

The area of Chalkidiki in northern Greece was a special case this year. As Evi Prodromou of Yanni’s Olive Grove reported, there had been great hopes for a much better olive crop in 2019 compared to the preceding year. “But during the summer we had a terrible hail storm in eastern Chalkidiki.” A quarter of the olives on the trees “vanished during the storm.” Some olive groves were destroyed; some trees had to be cut down, while others needed to be severely pruned, leaving them unproductive for three years.

Prodromou and her team managed to save part of their crop for olive oil production by applying copper, a natural healer, to trees damaged by hail during the summer. Although brown marks from hail damage prevented their selling their fruit as table olives, they started their harvest on September 22 and have already managed to produce excellent quality early harvest extra virgin olive oil. Compared to the average in recent years, they expect about half the usual amount of olive oil, but Prodromou views their production of that much high quality EVOO as “a miracle” after “all that happened this summer.” She considers the unprecedented hail storm “a major warning that the climate is changing.”

Regarding Lesvos, an important olive oil producing island in the eastern Aegean, Ellie Tragakes of Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises reported “looking forward to a very good crop this year.” She added that their “harvest begins relatively late, in December, because the Kolovi olive that is indigenous to Lesvos ripens later in the season than most other olive varieties.”

On Greece’s largest island, Crete, Kostas Kidonakis of Kidonakis Bros. told Greek Liquid Gold that his area, the Messara valley, is expecting 30-40% more olive oil than last year, about 20% more than an average year. Kidonakis anticipates “very good quality,” since they have had no problems with pests or diseases, although it has been dry, and some rain would also “be good for the quality now.” His team will follow the trend in his area and begin their harvest at the end of October or beginning of November.



Thanks to Yanni’s Olive Grove for the large photo at the top of the article, to Kidonakis Bros. for the introductory photo, and to E-la-won and Stalia for the smaller photos in the article.

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