an olive harvest underway on a cloudy day

This year’s olive crop in Greece is not expected to yield an immense quantity of olive oil, but producers in different parts of the country report that they are making very high quality early harvest extra virgin olive oil. Others who start their harvest later also predict very good quality. Any labor shortages due to the pandemic seem to be surmountable.

Vassilis Zampounis, publisher of Olivenews.gr, has reduced his estimate of Greek olive oil production for the current crop year from 240,000 metric tons to 210,000 or less due to recent weather developments, although he expects considerable regional variation around Greece. Zampounis suggests that the recent storm system called Circe rescued many thousands of olive trees from drought, for example in Messara, Crete and Laconia, Peloponnese.

Although Zampounis reports that there have been sufficient laborers to harvest the olives in Chalkidiki, northern Greece, including experienced Albanians, Eleni Zotou of Golden Tree in Kalyves, Chalkidiki told Greek Liquid Gold that for her company “this year things were difficult due to lack of staff. The pandemic made it difficult for the foreign workers we expected to arrive.” Golden Tree succeeded in completing their early harvest by hiring local Greeks. On the other hand, in the southern part of the country, an Albanian association is arranging to bring foreign seasonal laborers to Crete for the olive harvest, focusing on those who worked on other crops elsewhere in Greece during the summer.

Up north in Chalkidiki, Zotou says, Golden Tree managed to produce an organic early harvest extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with “strong aromas” and a balance of intense bitterness, spiciness, and fruitiness, along with “a rich amount of vitamin E and polyphenols”—plenty of healthy antioxidants. However, Zotou adds, “the drought that prevailed throughout the summer season and the high temperatures” in Chalkidiki make it clear that water will soon be a problem. “Climate change is a fact, and we need to adopt more environmentally friendly habits for our planet.”

Athanasios Katsetos of Loutraki Oil Company agrees: “Already climatic changes have generally shown bad effects in Greek farming.” Fortunately, Katsetos has seen no problems so far this year with weather or pests in the Sparta and Loutraki areas in and near the Peloponnese. In any case, with their organic-only cultivation Loutraki Oil Company is “always on top of our olive trees’ needs.” Yet “what no one can predict is the climatic conditions,” and Katsetos worries about the possibility of a hailstorm. He told Greek Liquid Gold his team will begin their harvest around November 20; they do not anticipate unusual challenges this year. He forecasts about 40% less olive oil than last year for his company, “but the best quality as is always the case.”

Farther east, George Dimas of Energaea thinks eastern Attica (near Athens) will produce much less than last year’s “huge harvest”—only 20% as much olive oil. He looks forward to “good quality due to smaller production and better procedures in olive mills for cultivated and irrigated olive trees,” but not such good quality for others, since especially high temperatures in May burned the olive blossoms, and a summer drought followed. Energaea began to harvest and mill small quantities of olives before mid October, a bit earlier than the harvest in that area generally begins, “with good results: 6.8 to 1” as the olive to olive oil ratio. “Not bad for the season and the Megaron variety.”

Discussing olive oil made on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesvos, Ellie Tragakes of Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises anticipates no problems. Tragakes explains, “this year olive oil quantities are expected to be a little less than last year because (as is well known) olive trees have biennial bearing. The good news is that the olive trees in Lesvos do not show signs of the olive fruit fly. Until recently there were worries over drought, but there was some recent rain, and according to weather forecasts it will be raining again soon, so this is also very positive. The harvest of our olives, which are the Kolovi variety, begins in December because Kolovi olives begin to ripen later than most other olive varieties. According to indications so far, we expect our oils to be of good quality.”

On a southern Aegean island, at Terra Creta in Kolymvari, western Crete, olive milling began October 12. Emmanouil Karpadakis reports “an increased number of farmers harvesting earlier than usual” there. He believes “that is because the farmers seem to pay more attention to higher quality this year, mainly due to the poor results of the previous harvest (2019-2020) and in response to the repeated messages from different sources about earlier harvesting.” The result from the earliest batches: “excellent quality parameters, so we are very optimistic about the coming extractions. Of course it is still early to have a complete picture on that” or regarding quantity. However, Terra Creta works year-round with farmers and agronomists to meet “specific targets for the required quality profile and the sustainability protocol implementation.”

Also in western Crete, Eftychis Androulakis of Pamako anticipates 15% less olive oil than average this year from Selino and Xamoudohori, but he sees “great fruits” with little damage from the olive fly and “very good olive oils.” The harvest usually starts around the end of October there, but his team began their extra early harvest in mid September, aiming for especially healthy high phenolic extra virgin olive oils. Androulakis and his team are compensating for atypically high temperatures with different treatment at the mill, refrigerating the olives for at least two hours on arrival; after washing and thoroughly drying the olives, they cool them again with their “new innovative cooling system.” Additional inventions and extra steps help produce EVOO so healthy it has been certified as a food supplement.

Even in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Greek olive trees continue to produce their nutritious fruit. Greek farmers continue to harvest olives, and millers continue to extract some of the world’s tastiest, healthiest extra virgin olive oil for consumption throughout the world.


Thanks to Golden Tree and Terra Creta for the photos used with this article.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as anyone else interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language site featuring news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach readers in more than 200 countries around the globe.

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