ΑΤΗΕΝS – Greece’s Green Gold – olive oil – is expected to have a big harvest year in 2022 after a disappointing production the year before, with signs pointing to more than 300,000 tons, still off the 2017-18 mark of 364,000 tons.
In a feature, Olive Oil Times said the good year is because of a mild summer, unlike the furnace of searing heat in 2021, with high temperatures in much of western and southern Europe driving down harvests for competing countries.
Some olive oil-producing regions of Greece, including Ilia in the Peloponnese, Aetolia-Acarnania in the western mainland and Magnesia in central Greece, are expected to especially rebound, the site said.
Holding down an even bigger year is the appearance of olive fruit flies in some areas, especially the major production areas of the Peloponnese and on Crete, which are the most important regions for olive oil.
Still, in the southern Peloponnese, the regions of Messenia and Laconia are both set for double-figure production increases, according to the local departments of agriculture, the site said.
The estimates for Messenia are close to 40,000 tons, which would be up 20 percent, and Laconia expects a 50 percent increase to 30,000 tons, local producers getting more optimistic.
“We expect our area to yield around 4,500 tons this year, which translates to 90 percent of the area’s production capacity,” Panayiotis Batzakis, the head of the Agioi Apostoloi agricultural association in Laconia, told Olive Oil Times. “Last year, we only managed to reach half of our production capacity.”
“We have zero problems with the fruit fly so far, and the ample rains in winter were beneficial for the olive trees,” Batzakis continued. “We mostly cultivate trees of the Athinolia variety, which gives some very aromatic olive oils.”
The industry is experiencing difficulties, however, in finding enough laborers to help the harvest and said it’s costing more to get workers to get into the trees and help rake in the bounty.
Batzakis said most foreign workers in the business have gone to Italy – which buys up Greek oil and markets it as its own – and he said Greek olive oil producers have to pay taxes for their workers and don’t want to do it.
‘Considering all the other expenses, harvest costs have skyrocketed. The state must intervene to provide a solution,” although he didn’t indicate whether that would be subsidies or what kind of aid is sought.
Customers in supermarkets have seen prices soar so much that some are turning to buying directly from producers in large quantities, with the cost now as much as 4.90 euros ($4.82) per kilo.
The news is just as good so far on Crete, equally renowned for its award-winning olive oil that has drawn raves in international competitions, matching those from the Peloponnese.
Olive growers and producers think they could bring more than 100,000 tons but worry about the olive fruit fly, the irony being that it wasn’t too hot to hold down the crop but not hot enough to kill off the pests.
“This season’s yield will be a record-setting one, especially along the coastal zone,” Yiorgos Motakis, a producer and the head of the Palea Roumata agricultural association near Chania told the site.
“The insects are thriving,” he said. “The crop-dusting operations were done using only one type of pesticide, which is unacceptable. Pesticides should be alternated, and operations should have been completed sooner. The problem will be evident during harvest.”
On the island of Lesbos in the eastern Aegean, which has been holding refugees and migrants since 2015, olive oil is also a key product and growers there expect about 15,000 tons and the estimates are just as strong in northern Greece around Chalkidiki, it was said.
“It looks like a good year,” said Yiorgos Rountos, a producer and miller based on the peninsula. “There are no problems with the fruit fly so far since there were no rains, only some squalls occurred in late August, so we expect .. really high quality.”