olive groves in Southern Crete, with the sea in the background

Looking back at 2022, Greek experts shared their views on the Greek olive oil sector. They mentioned the large quantity of olive oil produced recently in Greece (in contrast to Spain and Italy), as well as its high quality and fairer price for producers. However, they were concerned about a shortage of laborers and the costliness of energy and fertilizer.

While drought led to severe decreases in olive oil production in several other major producing countries, Greece is forecast to enjoy a 51% increase in 2022/23 compared to the previous crop year, according to the International Olive Council, with the third highest olive oil production worldwide and the most for Greece in a decade: 350,000 metric tons. The scarcity of olive oil elsewhere has pushed its price up, but at the same time the sector has been challenged by alarmingly high costs for fertilizer and energy, inadequate numbers of farm laborers available for the harvest in Greece, and a shortage of glass bottles.

Experts are disturbed by the problems faced by olive growers, which affect the entire sector. For example, Vasilis Pyrgiotis, a member of the Advisory Committee of the International Olive Council, discussed the situation with Greek Liquid Gold: “During 2022 the production costs rose significantly, mainly due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. More precisely, we noticed higher prices not only in energy and electricity, but also in raw materials, irrigation water, fertilizers, and other materials needed for packaging.”

“Moreover,” continued Pyrgiotis, “in many olive producing regions of Greece we noticed shortages of the labor force, which led to higher daily rates (up to 60 euros per day), or even phenomena of abandoning the harvesting in areas with estimated lower yield. However, given the fact that in the main EU producing countries (Spain, Italy) the harvest is significantly lower, the prices for Greek olive oil producers reached 5 €/liter in many cases, which could counterbalance the higher costs and leave a fair income for them.”

Cristina Stribacu, founder of Women in Olive Oil Greece, described “chaos in the glass industry, so many producers could not find their bottles anymore,” or had to pay much higher prices for them, which was especially problematic for small companies. Iordanis Tornaris of the Commercial Department of the Agricultural Cooperatives' Union - Laconia Greece S.A. also pointed out that “the increased cost of plant protection products” added to the difficulties for farmers, while higher energy costs hit them both in their olive groves and at the mills where their oil is extracted. Like many in the sector, Tornaris called on the government to provide financial support to the olive mills and farmers facing these difficulties, as well as assistance in bringing more laborers to Greek farms.

On the other hand, Tornaris believes “the price of olive oil is the highest that the producer has received in the last 17 years.” Dr. Athanasios Gertsis, Director of Krinos Olive Center and Professor at Perrotis College/American Farm School, considered pros and cons for Greece as well: “this year was excellent in terms of summer rains and temperatures,” but that created a “problem for late (up to the harvesting times) infestations from the olive fly, coupled with fungal diseases.” The result still seems to be a very high yield overall.

Many experts have found high quality in most areas as well. Writing in Olivenews.gr on December 23, Vasileios Zampounis reported “a record production as serious quantities are added from table olives” used for olive oil instead of their intended purpose, plus “excellent quality, despite the rumors to the contrary about the presence of the olive fly.” Eleftheria Germanaki, director and panel supervisor at the Sensory Evaluation Laboratory of Crete and an international olive oil competition judge, was pleased to see plenty of “excellent quality” Greek extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and “some new Greek olive oil brands with a quality-oriented philosophy,” plus “very optimistic” farmers happy about this year’s harvest.

Germanaki and others told Greek Liquid Gold the previous harvest also yielded excellent olive oil, providing beneficial “international exposure for Greek bottled extra virgin olive oil” in the international olive oil competitions that took place in 2022. Emmanuel Salivaras, organizer of the Berlin Global Olive Oil Awards, believes “we saw more Greek EVOOs earning organoleptic quality awards of the highest level in 2022” than in previous years. According to the EVOO World Ranking, bottled Greek olive oils won 1264 awards in the international olive oil competitions ranked by that organization in 2022.

Stribacu points out that “the reduced production in other countries resulted in high demand for Greek olive oil” at better prices than in the past. However, she is concerned that this was mainly a demand for bulk sales of Greek extra virgin olive oil: “the lack of a national strategy,” in Stribacu’s view, meant “that we did not support the exports of bottled EVOO,” missing a good opportunity “by being happy with exports of olive oil in bulk which will never end up in the market marked as a Greek product.”

Stribacu was pleased, however, by a number of successful events that took place in the Greek olive oil world in 2022, such as the Athena International Olive Oil Competition, the international ELIA conference and festival in Lesvos, and Women in Olive Oil Greece’s dialogue and collaboration with Aristotle University and Thessaly University on research on the health and wellbeing of women who work with olive oil.

During the year, other in-person international events in Greece replaced the online experiences that had become common during the COVID-19 pandemic. These included the first face-to-face Food Expo in Athens since 2019, the inauguration of a Garden of Peace at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania in Crete with olive trees representing 21 olive-growing countries, and an international conference on the Cretan Lifestyle: Mediterranean Tradition & Modern Applications in Rethymno. In addition, a new online English-language international olive oil and olive news and information outlet, OlivaeNews, was founded by the Greek agronomist, journalist, publisher and editor Vasileios Zampounis in partnership with international agronomic analyst Dr. Juan Vilar Hernández of Spain and agronomist, editor, and journalist Alberto Grimelli of Italy.

Starting with hard work in the olive grove and continuing in the olive mill, the bottling plant, the distribution chain, and interactions with consumers, the people working in the Greek olive oil sector in 2022 faced substantial new challenges on top of the usual ones. Many were able to overcome those difficulties in order to provide excellent, healthy Greek olive oil for the world’s pots and plates.

See also this related article: The Future of Greek Olive Oil: Eight Greeks’ Perspectives.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as others 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 focused on news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 220 countries around the globe.

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