Heavy rains worsen Greek olive crop forecast


As olive growers prepare for the upcoming Greek harvest season, some of the country’s most productive regions have been hit by heavy rains and gusty winds.

Severe damage, including flooded groves, broken olive trees and hail-damaged fruit, was reported by growers in the Ionian Islands, the central mainland, Crete, the western Peloponnese and the Halkidiki Peninsula in the north.
The recent storms and torrential rains that swept over our area caused excessive damage, leaving almost no fruit on many olive trees.

The weather events were particularly intense in the Etolia-Akarnania region of centralwestern Greece, the largest Kalamon table olive producing area in the country, where farmers faced storms and extremely heavy rains.

“The land in our area is very fertile, and we produce high quality Kalamon olives,” Nikolaos Kalliafas, an olive farmer in Gouries, near the Acheloos River Delta, told Olive Oil Times.

“The recent storms and heavy rains that hit our area have caused excessive damage, leaving almost no fruit on many of our olive trees,” he added. “I’m 51 years old, and I’ve been working in the fields since I was a kid. I’ve never seen such variable weather before.”

Kalliafas also noted that weather-related problems in the area are nothing new, but started showing up two or three years ago.

“Our production of edible olives has been on the decline for more than two years now,” he said. “Things are even worse this season, as I expect to get only half the amount that was produced the previous season.”

“The decline in production is not due to the [alternating fruiting] production cycle of the trees or anything else, but to the abnormal weather that brought unusually warm days in the spring and a complete drought in the summer, seriously affecting the fruiting of our olive trees,” Kalliafas added.

“The recent storms were just the finishing touch, and we also have to worry about the pathogen gloeosporium [also known as olive leprosy], which appears when moisture levels are high,” he continued. “We can’t apply any crop-dusting operations right now because harvest will begin in five days.”

Other growers in the area also described a grim situation: their olive groves were left under water for several days, damaging both the olive trees and their drupes.

The Farmers Association of Agrinio, the region’s largest city, issued an announcement warning that hard times were yet to come for local farmers and olive growers.

“Local farmers have suffered another blow to their incomes, which are in despair after earlier hail and frost damage and significant losses due to reduced fruiting of olive and citrus trees,” the announcement said. “The rural economy of our area is on the brink of extinction.”

In Crete, the effects of bad weather on the island’s olive growers have been milder. However, many farmers in the Heraklion area were affected, especially in the Monofatsi and Pediada areas.

Strong gusts of wind and hail have blown olive fruits to the ground and damaged branches and tree trunks.

“Heavy hail in different areas of Heraklion County caused great destruction in the countryside,” said Vassilis Kegeroglou, a local member of the Greek parliament. “Farmers can only count their wounds.”

Kegeroglou also called on the Ministry of Agriculture to record the damage caused by the hurricanes and provide compensation to affected farmers.

As for olive oil production, according to Vaggelis Protogerakis, head of the Heraklion Olive Oil Producers Association, an average crop is expected on the island. Nevertheless, the rains have been helpful in some areas, improving oil quality.

“This year, [olive oil] production is expected to be lower than last year,” Protogerakis said. “There will be [a good harvest] in some areas, but by no means can we talk about high production.”

“After the recent rains, excellent quality is expected,” he added. “However, the forecast of lower production extends to the rest of Greece … and the rest of the [EU] member states, and that makes us hope for better producer prices in Crete.”

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