a man reaching up with a long harvester to harvest olives from a tall tree

For much of the Greek olive oil sector in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic provoked the perseverance required to meet challenges and achieve success. With great dedication, many Greek olive oil producers turned a year of illness, lockdowns, and grief into a time for honoring olive oil’s health benefits and flavors and emphasizing its key role in a healthy diet.  

a closeup photo of Pamako founder Eftychis Androulakis

For the first time, says Pamako’s Eftychis Androulakis, an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been officially approved as a food supplement. While EVOO is also a healthy natural food, this early harvest Greek olive oil is so rich in antioxidants, and is produced, stored, and bottled with such care, that it can be prescribed by Belgian and Luxembourg doctors.

2 vials of Eureka olive oil next to a gold box

In a unique Greek-American collaboration, the World Olive Center for Health is working with the UC Davis Olive Center to raise money for olive oil research by selling extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) called Eureka. Packaged in a box that looks like a bar of gold, Eureka contains two vials of high phenolic “liquid gold”—that is, especially healthy EVOO.

Diamantis Pierrakos in front of a crate of harvested olives

Although the Greek government has declared a second COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, Greece’s olive harvest and olive oil production are continuing. Some seasonal labor shortages and mobility issues may cause minor delays, but several olive oil professionals remain optimistic that bottled Greek extra virgin olive oil will reach global consumers in good time.

fresh olive oil pouring out of a stainless steel pipe in an olive mill

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 made 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.

closeup of green olives on a branch against a bright blue sky

In its September 2020 Newsletter, the International Olive Council (IOC) provides overviews of various past and future meetings, including one focused on revising olive oil sensory analysis methods. The IOC also highlights its digital library of books available for free downloading and offers a synopsis of the global trade in olive oil and table olives.  

purple olives on a tree with a blue and sky with some clouds behind them

Representatives of the top nine olive oil producing and consuming countries discussed their forecast for the 2020/21 olive growing season during an online conference that was organized and moderated by strategic analyst Juan Vilar of Spain. They analyzed various estimates for olive oil production, consumption, inventories, prices, and international trade.

politicians and company and union representatives who attended the October 1 event in Sitia

As the millennium began, some of the world’s top awards went to extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) from the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Sitia in Greece. Although its members kept making excellent EVOO, the Union ran into fiscal difficulties. Now a new company, LASITIA, seeks to return the best Sitian olive oil to its rightful place in global markets.

a closeup of Women in Olive Oil founder Jill Myers

In April 2020, Jill Myers founded Women in Olive Oil (WIOO), starting with a small Facebook group that expanded globally in just a few days. On Facebook, WIOO summarizes its goal: “to contribute to individual and societal advancement of women through the common link of olive oil.” The movement has now grown to include 1200 women in almost 50 countries.

sheep in a grassy olive grove

Greece has impressed many observers by keeping the coronavirus outbreak under control. Of course, its strict, early lockdown and social distancing rules also affected the economy. Amidst the challenges and changes that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, Greek olive oil companies have offered support for the health and safety of consumers and communities.

a black glass Pamako bottle being filled with olive oil

In April, Greek Liquid Gold described the varied effects of social distancing and closures on three Greek olive oil companies. As supermarket sales of olive oil increased, but specialty store and restaurant sales plummeted, Greek olive oil companies offered contrasting reactions. They recently provided updates on their responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

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 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.

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