Although recent news headlines warn of soaring olive oil prices, these increases are neither universal nor uniform. The world has seen lower olive oil production levels this decade, and excellent extra virgin olive oil is still available at prices that are more than reasonable given the work put into creating its high quality and striking health benefits.
Emiko Terazono wrote about olive oil price increases in a recent Financial Times article, “Mediterranean drought sends olive oil prices surging,” which has been copied and quoted repeatedly. Many sources do confirm that prices have increased due to weather problems that reduced olive oil production in Spain, Greece, Tunisia, and especially Italy in the 2016-17 crop year, with price increases becoming more apparent recently due to a time lag before new olive oils reach shop shelves.
However, it is worth noting that the increase varies considerably depending on the consumer’s location and the olive oil producer or exporter, as Greek Liquid Gold reported in February and has now reconfirmed.
When Panayotis Karantonis, director of the Greek Association of Olive Oil Processors and Packers, told Terazono “Italy is terrible, Greece is terrible, and Tunisia is terrible,” he was not referring to olive oil quality, but to production levels, which fortunately did not fall as much in the olive oil producing giant, Spain, as it did in the other main producing countries – a crucial point to note, as Karantonis explained.
Terazono also mentioned that worldwide olive oil production levels are higher than in 2012 and 2014. In fact, the CEO of Luque Ecológico, Juan Manuel Luque, has estimated this year’s Spanish olive crop as “lower than some operators expected,” but still “among the best ten in history.”
Karantonis informed Greek Liquid Gold that, “the most recent data concerning olive oil production worldwide and also in the major producing countries,” will be available after this week’s International Olive Council annual meeting in Rome; before that, it may be premature to discuss production numbers. Furthermore, we will need to wait until the end of July for “a more reliable forecast for next year and a much clearer picture of the market,” since this year’s olive oil market will be affected by the prospects for next year.
Karantonis says that even in this difficult harvest year, “there are still excellent quality olive oils in Greece. Greece does not import extra virgin olive oil, so what you buy is authentic Greek extra virgin olive oil” (EVOO). The award-winning Greek olive oil exporters discussed in Greek Liquid Gold’s February article about olive oil supplies and prices recently reconfirmed that they are exporting high quality EVOO this year at prices ranging from the same as last year’s to 26 per cent higher than last year.
Myrta Kalampoka of Eirini Plomariou in Lesbos suggested that Greek producers are still working to earn the reputation their EVOOs deserve, so that many have not yet been able to increase their prices to a fair level. Kalampoka says that while Eirini Plomariou “exports only high quality olive oil” that is rich in healthy polyphenols, their prices remain “stable” compared with last year.
Similarly, Stratis Camatsos of evo3 Olive Farms in Lesbos explained that “the quality of EVOO that we export has been consistent throughout the years,” with an “acidity of about 0.3-0.4 per cent,” yet his company has not changed their prices much since last year. Camatsos argues that “Greek olive oil is underrated, but it has been consistently shown to be some of the highest quality EVOO on the market when comparing polyphenols – which is what gives olive oil its health impact.”
Camatsos believes that on Lesbos “the prices have been lower than in most parts of Greece, and thus we have been able to keep our prices on par with previous years. Even if we do see a spike, we keep our prices relatively the same so our customers can still enjoy our olive oil at a price they are accustomed to, and therefore we lower our profit margin.”
Other Greek producers have also settled for a lower profit margin in order to keep their customers. For example, Kostas Kidonakis of Kidonakis Brothers in Crete says that his company had to pay 30 per cent more for their olive oil this year, yet they increased their prices no more than 12 per cent, absorbing most of the price increase and selling “at almost no profit,” although their EVOO “is certainly one of the highest qualities,” as its multiple awards suggest.
Evi Psounou Prodromou of Yanni’s Olive Grove in Chalkidiki, northern Greece also reports having excellent EVOO. Their prices increased six or seven per cent since last year. Prodromou argues that “consumers and buyers should buy Greek EVOOs, because most of the Greek producers are small companies, and they produce small quantities. Their only ‘weapon’ to sell against big foreign producers is the highest possible quality.” With smaller quantities, many focus more on quality.
Nikos Charamis of KASELL SA producers of Phileos and Nine EVOOs in Laconia, Peloponnese, shares that they have also “managed to maintain our excellent quality despite the unfortunate conditions,” although they did need to increase their export prices by about 25 per cent compared to last year. Even so, Charamis argues that Greece remains an excellent source of extra virgin olive oil because it produces a larger percentage of EVOO in comparison to its total olive oil production than any other country (estimated to be 80 per cent or more of Greece’s total).
Maria and Athanasios Katsetos of Loutraki Oil Company, makers of ELEA EVOO, says that their company goes beyond the awards and certifications visible on their website to do “rigorous quality testing by expert affiliated analytical chemists specialising in state-of-the-art methods for the quality assessment of olive oil,” also assessing olive oil stability during storage, and having trained olive oil tasters do a sensory evaluation.
They did need to increase their prices about 26 per cent this year since farmers were selling their EVOO at higher prices, which meant a reduction in their sales.
Even so, the Katsetos’ “believe that Greece is a very blessed country. From climate to terrain conditions to the combination of sea and mountainous regions, Greece makes up a perfect recipe for any agricultural production if used wisely, effectively and respectfully.”
*For more Greek olive oil stories by Lisa Radinovsky, visit greekliquidgold.com
Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil provides information and news about Greek extra virgin olive oil, its quality, health benefits, producers, bottlers, and exporters, the places where it is made, and other facets of the Greek olive oil world. Greek Liquid Gold was created by Dr. Lisa Radinovsky. She manages its writing, editing, photography, and correspondence, as well as providing advertising and English-language editing services to Greek olive oil companies that request them.