a variety of bottles of Greek olive oil lined up on a countertop

2018 was a year of triumph for hundreds of Greek olive oil companies whose hard work before, during, and after the 2017/18 harvest yielded superb extra virgin olive oils, as international competitions recognized. It was a year of challenges for some Greek olive oil producers, whose hard work left them with disappointing results from the 2018/19 harvest.

Severe weather, including a drought, on top of problems with pathogens and pests such as gloeosporium and the olive fruit fly, have reduced olive oil quantity and quality in many parts of Greece for the current (2018/19) harvest year. A need for improved management of these and other challenges has been discussed at length in the Greek press.

However, the careful efforts of the luckier producers whose olives were not hit by weather related damage and avoided troublesome assaults by the olive fly leave observers hopeful that high quality Greek extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) will impress international judges and consumers once again.

Some areas and olive groves have managed to produce excellent extra virgin olive oil, albeit in smaller quantities. It remains to be seen how the number and level of Greek awards for EVOO quality and health benefits in international competitions will compare with the previous (2017/18) crop year’s many successes.

In 2018, hundreds of Greek olive oils earned awards in international competitionsaccording to one ranking, 437 awards in 20 contests, a vast improvement over the 213 awards in 13 contests reported by the same ranking organization for 2017.

In addition to regional and national competitions for extra virgin olive oil quality in Greece, the international olive oil competition based in Greece significantly expanded its size and reach in 2018. A new type of competition celebrated Greek innovations in the olive and olive oil sector. And an Athens based international competition for the healthiest extra virgin olive oils considered more samples than any other olive oil competition in the world.

If we are going to judge the soundness and success of the Greek olive oil sector by the numbers, we should also include numbers I don’t have: the numbers of
•    producers working hard every day to grow the best possible olives and make the best possible olive oil
•    individuals helping to get that olive oil bottled and branded in Greece, to bring the added value and recognition of its quality and wholesomeness to Greeks
•    producers attending seminars, conferences, and classes  to learn more about how to improve cultivation and production techniques in sustainable ways
•    scientists and others engaged in studies and innovative efforts related to olive oil 
•    experts in the olive oil field sharing their knowledge with Greeks and foreigners
•    professionals reaching out at expositions and conferences, and in print and online publications, to help educate Greek producers or to help spread the word about the high quality and health benefits of Greek extra virgin olive oil throughout the world

In 2018 (as in previous years), Greek and foreign scientists used Greek extra virgin olive oils in studies that shed new light on olive oil’s impressive, wide-ranging health benefits, for example in combatting Alzheimer’s and leukemia. In January, the co-writers of the Olive Encyclopedia, a recent Greek language publication full of information about olive oil, established the Olive Encyclopedists Society, starting with 29 distinguished scientists interested in interdisciplinary collaboration focused on innovations related to olives and olive oil.

Well-attended seminars, conferences, workshops, and classes for Greek producers demonstrated that there is a strong interest in learning to update and improve cultivation and production methods and to invest in innovation via education, invention, experimentation, and/or equipment. Greek companies’ widespread presence at international expositions, conferences, and exhibitions enabled broad recognition of the conscientious efforts of those working in the Greek olive oil sector.

A new Greek law requiring single-use bottled and branded olive oil on restaurant tables in Greece (starting in January 2018) was meant to provide the public, including tourists, with better, more nutritious olive oil that would impress visitors and increase demand for this product. Although many Greek olive oil companies began bottling in smaller containers for this purpose, and some restaurant owners began standardizing their own olive oil for use in their businesses, the overall compliance rate was disappointing.

On the other hand, increasing numbers of enthusiastic Greek olive oil producers have begun linking their production to agrotourism enterprises where they can educate tourists about the value, quality, and wholesomeness of Greek extra virgin olive oil, creating ambassadors for this product in various parts of the world. 

I don’t know how many farmers, olive oil producers, exporters, scientists, and others involved with the Greek olive oil sector are striving to bring outstanding, very healthy Greek extra virgin olive oil to consumers throughout the world, but I encounter more of them all the time. These dedicated women and men give me hope for the happy, healthy, prosperous Greek olive oil sector I wish for in the New Year and beyond.

In order to continue sharing news, information, recipes, and photos from the Greek olive oil sector for another year, the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website needs additional financial support. All companies and organizations involved with Greek olive oil or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece are now invited to consider new advertising and sponsorship opportunities for reaching Greek Liquid Gold’s readers in 170 countries around the globe.

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