Soaring Prices See Greece’s Valuable Olive Oil – Branches – Being Stolen

ATHENS – With rocketing prices putting olive oil out of reach for many Greek households for which it’s a staple part of the diet – it’s also making the so-called Green Gold commodity being targeted more by thieves, some of whom are taking branches.

Some growers and farmers, like Panagiatos Tsafaras, who has groves in Filiatra on the western Peloponnesian coast, said the worry is making him patrol there twice or day or more to book on the lookout for those trying to pilfer his crop.

He’s been too late, being robbed of the olives twice, including more than a ton in one taking. “It’s the first time this is happening. We had never experienced this in our region,” Tsafaras, 63, told Reuters.


Other producers across the country have taken more extreme measures, installing cameras and GPS trackers on trees as well as considering hiring private security, it was said, no answer given why they hadn’t done so already

“When I saw it, I was shocked, I was sad and then I thought: What’s this, why is it happening?” Tsafaras said, adding the thieves strike at night using rods to beat the olives off the trees or silent electric chainsaws to cut off entire branches.

The haul is taken away in pickup trucks and the oil extracted in different areas from where it was stolen, some producers even thinking of using fake olives with GPS locators to try to take where the stolen commodity is taken.

Greek police confirmed to Reuters that there is a spike in thefts of olives and olive oil across the country this year. It’s the world’s third-biggest producer of olive oil behind Italy and Spain, which have seen similar incidents. Known as “extra virgin,” the Greek variety is particularly sought-after for its high quality.

Government officials said climate change and deadly summer wildfires, record heat and floods also ruined trees and crop production in some areas, which could fall up to 50 percent, or a loss of 170,000 tons, further driving up prices.

Erratic weather and too warm winters have also been a problem, the summer heat drying up olives as well, a decline in output doubling the wholesale price to 8-9 euros ($8.86-$9.74) per liter, little more than one quart.

It brought sticker shock on supermarket shelves where Greek households were also struggling to deal with inflation that’s begun to cool but hasn’t seen prices lowered and the government imposing fines for gouging.

Retail prices have reached up to 14 euros ($15.15) which makes it a desirable target for thieves who can refine and sell it without government interference, with warnings that some is being adulterated.

Filiatra, near the sea, is a quiet town in a fertile plain of 5 million trees that contribute 10-12 percent of Greece’s output of olives, the report said of a rich region for the prized product.

“These are sad things,” 37-year old olive grower Dimitris Plakonouris, who owns 2,000 trees in Filiatra,  told Reuters about the thefts that he and other farmers are trying to stop.

“The only measure we can take is to collect the olives as quickly as possible so that thieves can’t steal them from us,” Plakonouris said. Oil mill owner Panagiotis Foudas said that he and business partner have taken action.

“We have installed security cameras and an alarm, we have fenced off the area of the oil mill to protect the crop and we are trying to patrol at night,” he said, tree owners looking to take more measures to protect what they own.


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